Girders Blog
Notes on building internet applications

Open Source Win and Fail

Sep 15, 2011

I have long enjoyed using Open Source Software (OSS) as a developer for many good reasons. It is not even an issue of being "free", but of having community access to the code to learn, troubleshoot, and enhance the functionality. Support for OSS by the community is fast and accurate. As the source is scrtinized by both the white hats and the black hats, it is also make more secure from attacks and vulerabilities.

The greatness of a full OSS system is best seen by operating systems such as GNU/Linus and FreeBSD, databases like PostgreSQL, and a host of other powerful software that competes as well as or better than many commercial offerings.

We watched Linux for years, expecting it to overtabke commeercial operating systems like Windows. Each year, it seems just as far away from that goal as it did the previous year. Why is that, I wondered?

The limit of Open Source Software

Recently, Linus Torvolds (the "creator" of Linux) spoke of Abandoning the GNOME 3 GUI interface. Before that, the lastest major version of KDE 4, an alternative to GNOME on the Linux operating system, was received to a damp reception. Of course, these things happen with commercial operating systems too, like the blunders of Windows Vista. But within a year, Microsoft released a beta of Windows 7, aiming to fix the shortcomings of a new design.

Microsoft, and certainly Apple Computer have a large interest in making the increasingly complex software easy to use. Beyond operating systems, applications like MS Office, Photoshop, etc., need to maintain a user-friendly veneer on top of a complex software application.

Why does OSS fail? It does not have the same demand for interface design, ultimately commercial success. There are no interface designers creating a navifation structure across the operating system, no reaction to interface failures. They seem to stick to their plan, and blame the users for their own issues.

The OSS community creates and delivers powerful software and appeals to other developers and geeks for use on servers, but until they can compete for users on interface design, theye will always loose the desktop wars.