Stacey Schneider studied work of this year’s winners of Nobel Prize for Economics and came to a conclusion that open source is software’s solution to create perfect efficient market (via Matt Assay). I know that this does not sound very convincing to the everyday PC user.
Why are efficient markets necessary? Efficient markets let the user choose and allow the vendor to earn money by serving better. They curb monopolies and exploitation by encouraging healthy competition. They make things abundant instead of scarce. It is a win-win situation.
How can open source enable them? Open source does more than a couple of things to enable this. Open source
- provides the infrastructure through the community. It uses the power of aggregation. This arms the developer enough to build something, which can be used to break a monopoly or revolt against exploitation.
- puts the product in the hands of the users directly, not only for usage but even for testing. This enables better testing, better feedback and a user who can choose with informed decisions.
- encourages others to use the source code, to build on it, to innovate or to customzie. Source code is an artifact which is necessary to evolve software, but is not an idea by itself. Open source gives more importance to the idea itself, by making source code abundant. The abundance lets thounsands of other people, a lot of them with expertise, to review it and make it better.
- reduces the cost of failure, which helps you experiment more.
- uses the copyright to continue evolution, not to restrain it. I do not think open source is anti-copyright, credit should always ben given to the deserved. Open source discourages using copyrights and patents to exploit and manipulate the markets.
It is important to understand these benefits. Kim Brebach points to 13 reasons why Linux should be on desktops. I agree, but at the same time I feel that these are not the most important ones. Most of the benefits of Linux are because it is open source. Of course lower cost helps, but a free-of-charge Linux is still better than a free-of-charge Windows copy. Why? Because of the community. Why is the community effective? Becuause Linux has made its source code abundant, and thousands of people can now help in building on it, making it better and better for you. It is this inherently quality open source, that makes Linux a better choice.
The community also means that you are no longer dependent on a vendor who is trying to dominate the markets. Freedom from vendor lock-in is the true benefit of open source code. Vendor lock-in is not to be against the vendors, but to promote availability . As an example, there was no choice to Windows when hardware drivers were available only for its platform. Why did hardware companies provide drivers only for Windows? But now, with many working on it for other platforms, Windows cannot flaunt this uniqueness. The only way it can now compete with others is by being better. This is one of the classic examples of providing a common platform for all competitors and a step towards efficient markets.