Flexibility to alter and extend your most vital software assets is more important today than ever before, giving open source software an enormous advantage. Traditional software vendors aren’t able to keep up with what’s happening. Just look at the reality as the world has rapidly gone digital: Business models are undergoing insane change. Companies that were on top of many industries are finding themselves shut out by nimble, technology-driven competitors. There are the popular examples like AirBnB, Amazon and Uber, but beyond the more obvious, companies in every vertical are at risk of losing everything if they fall behind. Marc Andreessen said it nine years ago and it is still true: Software truly is eating the world.
The reasons open source has the advantage aren’t hard to see. As a result of rapid change, traditional vendors struggle mightily to decide what products to build, what to modernize and what to leave behind as dead weight. They’re watching closely but always one step removed from the action. Secondly, the choices software vendors typically make are focused inward, defending their revenue, margins and marketshare, not outward on the needs of their customers. The survival of the customer is secondary to the survival of the vendor facing tremendous economic pressures. That’s just how it goes. This fact leaves the customers of proprietary software at the mercy of misaligned decisions made by their vendors, not by themselves. Lastly, proprietary software is forced to support a long tail of legacy functionality for market laggards and those who pay good money but may not be around in a couple of years. This revenue makes software vendors lazy and blinds them to the changes they need to make.
Open source, on the other hand, is well-known for being cutting edge, faster to market, and far more assured for long-term viability.
Open source doesn’t cover every functionality needed by the market because it relies on there being a broad base of people willing to contribute code. Where it does align with broad-based needs, however, its power is tremendous. After all, where are the most visionary developers today? In a reactive, sometimes lazy software company or out in the world, directly facing the chaos of rapid change? Those visionary developers sink or swim at the battlefront of business, not behind the scenes. Every decision they make directly impacts marketshare and survival. Their use cases are today’s biggest challenges, not yesterday’s.
Everything described above points to the importance of having freedom to choose for yourself and the flexibility to extend your software without compromise. Open source is the unique way to do more for less, and don’t let anyone tell you that the hidden costs to open source outweigh the cost savings. That’s just an argument made by those who have all of their eggs in the proprietary software basket.
Being truly open source software represents freedom from the choices of others, freedom to choose your own secret sauce, and the flexibility to rapidly take the changes created by others on the front lines. This freedom and flexibility can’t be ignored any more than the transparency and cost savings that come as a bonus. There’s a reason the use of open source has skyrocketed alongside rapid change.