FOSS Myths



FOSS applications are lower quality

There are poor and excellent applications and tools that are both FOSS and closed projects. The fact that a project is FOSS does not convey anything about the quality of the project or the software any more than a book can be judged fairly by its cover.

FOSS programs are less secure because the code is visible

Some people believe that because “bad guys” will be able to see the code in FOSS programs, that venerabilities will be identified and exploited more. In actuality, the “good guys” can also see the code and find and patch venerabilities too, which is why FOSS projects often have fewer venerabilities and they are often corrected more quickly, too.

Commercial apps can't be used with FOSS systems

Commercial applications can be used with and on FOSS systems. There are numerous commercial/closed-source applications on the market that will run on Linux.

FOSS apps can't be used on closed/commercial systems

FOSS projects can and do work on closed as well as open operating systems. For example, Apache, Firefox, OpenOffice, GIMP, and hundreds of FOSS applications run not only on FOSS systems like Linux, but also closed systems, like MS Windows.

Commercial/closed apps can't be built with FOSS tools

While it is true that there are limitations as to what can or can not be commercialized with FOSS tools, it depends on the exact license for the FOSS project in question. This is no different than when building applications/projects with non-FOSS tools.

FOSS is anti-capitalist

For a true capitalist economy to work, one must have competition. Unfortunately, competition has been severely restricted in many aspects of the computer industry. FOSS tends to increase competition by offering alternatives and promoting open standards and interoperability. Plus, FOSS has stimulated all kinds of new for-profit business models.

FOSS is based solely on the GPL

Although the GPL is the most popular and known FOSS license, there are dozens of different types of Open Source licenses. The OSI (Open Source Initiative) certifies and maintains those licenses and makes them available for the public to examine. There are some significant differences among the licenses, giving developers a variety of choices.

FOSS works well only for small projects

Some of the largest programming projects in the world are FOSS, including WikiMedia, Mozilla, Apache, Gnome, KDE, GIMP, OpenOffice, Linux, Bind, SendMail, Eclipse, MySQL, Xen, Zimbra, Jboss, and countless others.

FOSS is only about Linux vs. MS Windows

There are many, many FOSS projects that have nothing to do with Linux. After Linux, the best-known FOSS application is probably Firefox. Firefox runs on Linux, MS Windows, and MacOS. It is a web browser and has really nothing to do with operating systems. More people run Firefox under MS Windows than there are Linux and MacOS users.

FOSS is anti-intellectual property rights

FOSS is based on licensing, which is based on copyright law. The purpose of FOSS is exactly to protect intellectual property. The objectives of FOSS licenses are, however, often different than those used for closed-source projects.

Software can't be simultaneously open and closed sourced

There is nothing to stop a developer from releasing software under both an open/FOSS license and some type of closed source license at the same time. In fact, this arrangement is not all that uncommon. Some companies want to make their products open, but also have a commercial version for which they offer enhanced functionality, support, or sub-licensing possibilities.

Nobody can make money with FOSS

Many companies base their whole revenue stream on FOSS projects. A few examples of such companies are: Asterisk, Xtuple, Trolltech, Postgresql, and JBOSS. Many more compnaies gather at least part of their revenue on FOSS. There are a variety of business models that include FOSS.

FOSS is just about having a free pricetag

People who use FOSS know that total cost ownership (TCO) is also important. Licensing costs might be free for FOSS projects, but there are other costs- training, implementation, hardware, support, etc. Even so, licensing costs can be a significant dollar outlay that FOSS can help avert especially when one examines those fees over time and upgrades. But more importantly, open source projects offer freedom in other, very important ways. For example, the freedom to examine and change the code and add to or “fork” the project.

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