My Experience with Open Source Software: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) is an incredibly powerful concept that has changed the software landscape for the better. FOSS provides users with access to software that is not only free, but also allows for the inspection and modification of its source code, giving users a high level of control. The FOSS community is also quite robust, with Linux being a prime example of a large and thriving community.

FOSS has become ubiquitous in our lives, with many of us having used FOSS at least once. There are many examples of great FOSS alternatives to paid options, such as LibreOffice, GIMP, and Blender. In fact, Blender has become so good in recent years that it has become an industry standard in the 3D modeling space. FOSS is functional, highly customizable, and easy to modify or extend its abilities. Additionally, if the original developers stop development, the FOSS community can keep the software alive.

Before discussing the drawbacks of FOSS, let's first appreciate its many advantages:

  • FOSS is free to use and distribute.

  • FOSS is highly customizable, from its appearance to its function.

  • FOSS is often reviewed and improved by a large community of developers, resulting in relatively early bug detection and fixes.

  • Users can inspect the source code to ensure the software is trustworthy and secure.

  • FOSS does not collect user data, and app usage statistics usually require user consent to be collected.

Moreover, many of the recent technological innovations and the internet wouldn't have been possible without FOSS. Like Mozilla Firefox, VLC Media Player, Linux, Python, GNU Compiler collection (think C, C++), Apache Cassandra, and many more.

However, FOSS also has its share of drawbacks:

  • Most FOSS software lacks the polish and user-friendliness of commercial software, making the user interface seem like garbage.
  • FOSS projects are often run by volunteers who may not have the time or resources to maintain the software over the long term. This can lead to issues such as project abandonment and lack of updates. Additionally, commercial entities may use FOSS without giving proper credit or contributing back to the project, undermining the sustainability of the project.

  • FOSS may not perform efficiently with certain operating systems and hardware, leading to compatibility issues. For example, Blender works best with Windows.

  • There is limited official support available, and users have to rely on forums or online communities for support. Additionally, the documentation can be hard to understand for an average user.

In conclusion, FOSS is a great thing that has led to many innovations in the software space and continues to do so. Despite its drawbacks, many people, including myself, appreciate FOSS for what it is. The community is aware of the issues and is working to improve documentation, increase compatibility, and develop sustainable funding models such as crowdfunding, donations, and selling services around FOSS.

However, I can't help but feel that FOSS has more room for improvement. Look at Blender, for example. After version 2.8, its UI got a major overhaul, and it became more aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, and even better in functionality, leading to it becoming an industry standard. Similarly, at the time of writing of this blog, Open-Source game engine Godot is undergoing a similar overhaul in version 4.0. I would love to see more FOSS projects follow a similar path and become even better. Let's see what the future holds for FOSS!

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