I’ve seen a lot of impressive implementations of open source (to some extent) software. From Firefox to Linux and Open Office to Eclipse, open source software has really become pervasive in our society. But this isn’t a move that is widely followed; there are still a lot of large companies or industry giants that aren’t moving toward a more open web (Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe, to name a few). What does that say about the future for open source?
Open source has always filled a strange niche of demand; a group of elites building their own Utopia in a sense, working with each other to find solutions to difficult problems. It sounds great, but it isn’t perfect, and it isn’t the whole solution. If everything were open source, everything would be fully customizable and free, and one could do anything and everything with their own personal experience. The problem is that not everyone is a programmer, not everyone has the time or know-how to build his or her own interfaces or programs. How could tech support operate for these individuals? The gap between the tech savvy and technophobes would be far greater than it is today. Sure their would be people who would be willing to create templates for these individuals, but would those people be enough to provide for everyone who needs it? Maybe. Even then, it is much easier for a company with a set system to provide for those needs.
The dimorphism has other useful characteristics as well. Fostering competition. For open source to work, you need a group of committed programmers who are willing to spend their time and resources on an endeavor that they really believe in. Often, however, those resources fall short. Sometimes there aren’t enough hands. Bring in the corporate side, and you have enough funding and enough hands to go around. They also bring their own motivation, commercial success. This isn’t a rant on greed or corporate behavior; companies exist to meet the needs of consumers and money exists to facilitate that transaction. Fiscal success is a powerful motivator for research and development, and competition an even better one.
So while a lot of people complain about Apple refusing to support Flash or Flash’s hold on the market, or about Apple’s stringent controls on their app market (a lot of Apple popping up >.> ), it isn’t really an issue. Either another company rises to the occasion and fixes the issues, or individuals become passionate about it and fix it themselves. I don’t think that open source is the only future, but I do believe that it is part of it. Whether programmers are motivated by monetary compensation or by some passionate belief, they are still fighting to write better code than the next programmer. And honestly, that’s all that matters.