In the open source world, especially in terms of enterprise applications, there are ample open source support companies willing to help. Many open source projects have commercial support available. And if a project doesn't, often you can find a separate company that provides paid support for most open source applications. Many times these separate companies are part of a certification process for that particular open source software. Examples include Linux certification to LibreOffice certification.
In addition to the practical reasons for using open source software, there is also a matter of the philosophical reasons. Freedom is the first that comes to mind. Open source software comes with a license that allows you to take the existing code and make it better. From there, you're free to use it while sharing your changes with the open source community as well. It's this freedom of code access that has allowed the open source software world to explode in popularity.
One of the most popular open source licenses is called the GPL. It comes from the Free Software Foundation and is what many of today's most popular open source applications use for licensing. One great feature about the GPL is that it encourages the sharing of code improvements. This has allowed the open source community to work together to push through any bugs or fixes needed.
With proprietary software, even freeware has its price. Freeware doesn't encourage improvements offered by its users. First off, you have no idea what the code is doing or how safe it is. Secondly, you can't see how it works behind the scenes. So even if you have the technical skill to offer a bug fix, you're not able to contribute directly. Another issue with freeware is nag screens, crippled features, or that it might come bundled with malware.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to use open source software is control. Daily, I read stories on various forums where a proprietary application decided to update itself without permission. Windows 10 is an excellent example of this disregard for the casual user. Another example is trying to overcome a product key with a proprietary game or a software title. If the DRM has a failure for some reason, it affects the user – not the company that created the software. Open source applications don't rely on product keys or other means of authenticating users in order to simply run a local application. Open source offers users software with complete freedom.
The last thing I want to touch on is cost. Open source software is designed to be available to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Someone who is flat broke can still enjoy open source applications, even if they're unable to donate money in return. Because most open source software rely on donations or sell services, there is no need to charge a flat fee for access to the application.
In an era of companies like John Deere telling their customers what they can and can't do with their tractors, software freedom is more important than ever. I think for most people the idea of software freedom doesn't really matter too much until it affects you. Imagine living in a world where you can't remove or install the software you want on your own computer. I fear we're closer to this world than most people realize.
What say you? Do you have some favorite open source applications you can't live without? Perhaps you disagree with me and think open source software is silly and proprietary applications offer a better experience? Hit the comments and share your perspective.
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