Pros and Cons of Open Source Software: Page 2

Does the cost advantage justify the limits on functionality?
Posted October 10, 2011

Matt Hartley

(Page 2 of 2)

Internet Explorer vs Firefox

Over the years, I've found that Firefox has one gigantic edge over Internet Explorer. Besides being less of an hacker exploit target than the Microsoft browser, Firefox has more available browser add-ons than any other browser out there. Google's Chrome might be catching up, but I believe that Firefox is still the winner in terms of raw add-on numbers.

Despite everything above, Internet Explorer has managed to make significant improvements with its browser interface – and even security features – which makes it a compelling browser. In addition to Internet Explorer's recent improvements, Mozilla has managed to speed up new Firefox releases to the degree that most of my old browser add-ons no longer work.

I'm usually thrilled about rapid software development, however the current pace of the development of Firefox is killing add-on compatibility. As of this moment, I literally have one working add-on out of six.

Meanwhile, you can be assured that if you had something working add-on related with Internet Explorer, chances are it's still working even with recent updates. It's a problem that Firefox needs to address in my opinion. Both browsers are free of charge.

Open source vs closed source software

So, what's next then? Do we advocate using open source software because it's available at no cost? Or do we instead choose to spend money on proprietary software because in some instances it can offer us with slightly more functionality? My thoughts on this are simple, as I can only speak for myself.

I believe that if you are purchasing something, it should give you the kind of value you’ve come to expect. Unfortunately, most proprietary software fails in this area. While there are certainly exceptions here, most of it is just repackaged service packs of the same software you bought initially.

To me, this is a huge turn off. Microsoft Windows is a screaming example of this problem. It offers only slight improvements to get you to spend more money on something that, honestly, wasn't needing to be replaced in the first place. It's even worse when you find yourself needing to buy new hardware two years later as there's some new "feature" that requires the latest thing from partner hardware vendors.

On the flip side of the coin, I've found that using open source software doesn't put me through this maze. I can take my same hard-earned money, purchase compatible hardware/peripherals for my Linux operating platform and use all of it until I choose to upgrade hardware. I do this not because software is pushing in this direction, but because I’m really ready to upgrade my hardware.

I look at Linux distributions like DSL or Puppy Linux and see a glimmer of the commonsense our parents and grandparents had. Some of you might even remember those crazy times, back when people would use something until it wore out or instead of replacing it, learned to fix it themselves.

I think that once we remove the politics from open vs. closed source software and consider which option is offering the most appropriate value for what we need, the choice is clear.

If you have specific requirements that dictate that using the open source alternative simply isn't practical, then clearly buying the proprietary application is the way to go. But this mindset of "make it easy because I'm lazy" is utter nonsense.

There are countless times where using the freely available, open source alternative would indeed work just fine for the majority of software requirements. I believe that by working together, both proprietary/closed source and open source software have a place in this world. Because embracing both options when appropriate translates into true software freedom.

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Tags: open source, Linux desktop

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