Saturday, February 2, 2008

Open Source and the Democratization of Knowledge

I like Open Source Software (OSS) for a number of reasons. It lowers the cost of software and allows a larger number of organizations and individuals worldwide to make use of it. OSS is also where real innovation is currently happening in the software industry. OSS companies focus their resources on the engineering process and use the web itself as a marketing and distribution channel. This allows users to freely download and try the product and decide for themselves if it’s good for them. They can get free support from the community of users or purchase commercial support for mission critical applications. The quality of product can be quickly enhanced because of the feedback that the OSS developer gets from the potentially thousands of users who download the software.

But the most important reason why I like OSS is that it enables what I call the democratization of knowledge. Complex software like operating systems, databases, ERP, CMS, and web portals all exist today in OSS. OSS is a great equalizer because anyone can access the source code to learn or discover how such complex systems are designed. They can also contribute to the code if they wish. This is unprecedented in human history. Traditionally certain groups of people have kept their technological know-how to themselves as a competitive advantage used to dominate and control markets and/or other groups of people.

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