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10 Myths About Free Open

Source Software (FOSS)

Simon Vass
IT Consultant
E-Tech Uganda Ltd

Software Freedom Day 2008

In a time when our lives are increasingly
dependent on technologies, it is important we
take the time to consider the impact of
technology on our lives, and the importance of
ensuring technology isn't used to limit us, but
rather to take us further along a path of
opportunity, innovation and freedom for all
Pia Waugh, President of SFI - 2007 |

10 Myths about OSS

In 1999, Tim O'Reilly, founder of a popular open
source-oriented publishing house, gave a
keynote speech to an audience of Fortune 500
executives called "Ten Myths about Open
Source Software".
As those myths are still perceived as true today,
let re-examine them.

What is Free and Open Software?

Myth #1: It's a Linux-vs-Windows


Full Migration required. All or nothing approach.

Most projects are cross-platform, and can be
executed on Microsoft Windows, Apple's OSX
(which is itself based on more than 300 open
source projects) or Linux.

Myth #2: FOSS is not reliable or


FOSS is inherently unreliable:

"MySQL had a defect density that is about six
times lower than the average of comparable
proprietary projects.
There is no support:
Most large scale project do have companies
that provide paid-for support.

Myth #3: Big companies don't use

Open Source software.

About 86% of Fortune 1000 companies are

deploying or testing FLOSS, including Sun, HP,
26% of large companies are mentioning the use
of Linux on the desktop

Myth #4: Open Source software is

hostile to intellectual property.

The reality is that for most scenarios, this (GPL)

clause simply provides a way to prevent
appropriation of code without giving back
contributions or credit.
Structured FOSS projects actually have a strict
acceptance and peer review policy, regarding

Myth #5: Open source software is

all about licenses.

OSS introduces the concept of

shared development, this "bazaar"
style where every developer is free
to choose on what part of the code
to work,in contrast to the
"cathedral" or formalized
development approach that is rigid
and structured.
This allows collaboration to
happen even between
competing companies;

Myth #6: If I give away my software to the Open Source

community, thousands of developers will suddenly start
working for me for nothing.

For a collaborative community to form, there

must be first of all a good communication and
interaction strategy.
Investment in community creation and
dissemination efforts increases the probability
of a two-way effort sharing.
No guarantee that simply "dumping" code will
work or be taken up

Myth #7: Open source software

only matters to programmers.

Many users can contribute in such aspects

even as non-programmers, like translations,
documentation. i.e. Firefox in Luganda
Significant cost reduction or dramatically
increases the flexibility of the offered solution.
Availability of the source code allows you to pay
someone for modifications or ongoing
maintenance even if the original FLOSS project

Myth #8: There is no money to be

made on Free Software.

Defined broadly, FOSS-related services could

reach a 32% share of all IT services by 2010*
FOSS potentially saves industry over 36% in
software R&D*
FOSS directly supports the 29% share of
software that is developed in-house in the EU
(43% in the U.S.).*

*as of September 2007

Myth #9: The Open Source

movement isn't sustainable

The reality is that in most projects companies

and volunteers participate in a collaborative and
non-competitive way;
(the GPL) forces companies to reciprocate their
efforts by making dissemination of the source
code mandatory.

Myth #10: Open Source is playing catch-up to

Microsoft and the commercial world.

A study of 500 sourceforge projects, around

12% of the projects sampled were considered
innovative this is comparable with propriatory
A cited study by Succi, Paulson and Eberlein,
declared that open-source software actually
fosters more creativity.

Further Information and Support


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