Monday, June 22, 2009

Geekonomics - Criticism of Chapter 6 on opensource software

Second of the series of articles inspired by David Rice's Geekonomics.

I am not totally satisfied with David Rice's take on opensource software in his Chapter 6: Open Source Software: Free, But at What Cost?

While he definitely has good points as a whole, and while I see his description of some of the hidden defects of opensource projects as accurate, I am sad that he forgets to mention about real big companies taking a part in opensource developments. Companies like IBM, Sun (now Oracle) or Apple all make some opensource developments, and you cannot tell that they act as beginners or non-professionals in their development methodologies.

And I am also a little surprised to see that the author compares opensource development projects to an "idealized" proprietary development project. For instance, he says it is possible that a part of an opensource software will go unmaintained because of a lack of interested people and forgets to say that even in big proprietary developments, such things also happen, because of mediocre management or because of periods of deep stress.

I would say that Chapter 6 holds some good points but my conclusion be:
  • Opensource software is not a radical change from proprietary software in the methodologies.
  • Opensource software is not radically more secure or of better quality than proprietary software by essence.
  • The "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" argument is valid, and those opensource software which have a high number of both users and developers actually get an improvement of their quality and security.