The Pros and Cons of Open Source Software – Neotys Testing Roundup

Open source software has made waves in the tech world creating a movement for software to be more transparent and accessible to all. From this movement, strong advocates for and against open source software have sprung up creating a heated debate between these two groups.

We have gathered four articles that take a look at both sides of the open source software debate. Leave your opinion in the comments below.

1. The Open Source Conundrum: 3 Benefits and Drawbacks

Historically, open source software was a labor of love for hobbyists and hackers. Today, open source is a multi-billion dollar industry and many companies opt to use open-source software as their primary software platforms— from word processing to operating systems. Granted, a good chunk of these businesses are not-for-profit companies but for-profit businesses are readily adopting open source in increasing numbers. Should you?

The article looks at 3 benefits and drawbacks of open source software.

Benefits:

  1. The license price
  2. The stability
  3. The competitive edge

Drawbacks:

  1. It’s not the best answer in most cases
  2. Legal implications
  3. Security issues

2. Why Open Source Sucks

Dr. Neal Krawetz has a bone to pick with open source software tools. The blog post is his personal rant on why open source sucks, but it offers an honest insight into the drawback of open source software.

Here are a few points he makes in his article Why Open Source Sucks:

1. Prima Donnas

Krawetz points out that in his career as a technical engineer in a Fortune-500 company, there was always a buffer between his blunt comments and the customer. In open source software, you the customer get to meet the blunt, rude engineers. You will meet the ones on a power trip, others are trolls and a handful of friendly, helpful ones.

2. Real Costs

Open source is really good if you’re cheap (i.e., don’t want to spend one penny). However, just being free is not the same as “no cost”. Since open source code generally doesn’t have the same budget as commercial software, there is usually less effort given to usability, documentation, and even development. You can expect to burn time fighting with the installations and dealing with the learning curve.

3. Why Open Source Rocks

On the flip side, Krawetz gives the argument that open source is pretty good. It is easy enough to criticize open source software about things that require a good amount of marketing, documentation, support, and legal staff. Most open source projects have little or no funding and are operated by a small handful of programmers.

“As far as I know, there isn’t a free, open source usability lab (unless you count the “end user”). In contrast, commercial software usually has the budget for market research, usability testing, and even a couple of support personnel. But with size and funding come other limitations, and it is here that open source software really shines.” says Krawetz.

Here’s a few points he makes to support open source:

1. Transparency

“Open source” does not mean “free”. There are plenty of open source projects that are shareware, beerware, and postcardware. “Open source” only means that the source code is available. By being available, the functionality becomes transparent; anyone can see what it does and how it works.

2. Sparks Innovation

Competition comes from many areas. However, most commercial projects that I have been on were marketing driven. The people in marketing have a checklist of features and the developers must implement the functionality. As a result, products compete with each other. If Product A has a new feature, then Product B must incorporate something similar.

With open source code, you don’t have market-driven functionality. If a function is cool, then it gets implemented. If it sucks, it gets left out. As a result, you can get some really novel functionality from open source.

4. The True Cost of Free Testing Tools

Open source testing tools carry a certain appeal to testers – there’s no doubt about that. However, there is a pretty intense debate out there between open source testing tool advocates and in-house/vendor testing tool advocates. Both camps provide equally valid points.

But, we have to wonder, what is the true cost of using a free open source testing tool? Here are some points we came up with for why free open source software tools aren’t really free.

1. Free tools might not be as free as you think

Free testing tools are like free puppies. Think about it. You get a puppy as a gift, but that puppy lives for 18 years or so and requires food, vet visits, training classes, visits to the groomers and a whole lot more basic necessities to keep your furry friend healthy and happy.

2. Lack of professional tech support

There are open source communities out there that are very responsive and many argue new features are rolled out faster than vendors. But, you can’t really count on the community too heavily because it’s not their job. They aren’t getting paid to work on the tool, and if you want the tool to have a feature that does X-Y-Z, you have to wait until someone in the community decides to implement that feature.

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