But let’s take a step back and look at the software landscape today. Linux is obviously the most visibly successful Open Source product to date. Its desktop versions are standard for many serious software developers and it is making headway as a deployment platform as well. It has versions for embedded and real-time platforms, as well as Android for mobile platforms. MySQL is the most well-known database management system, being the “M” in LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP), a standardized, Open Source stack for software system — even Cloud — deployment. Its source code is readily available, but it is the object code, the runnable software, that is most commonly used and deployed.
Here’s the common thread in the popular, highly successful and high-quality Open Source products: they are high-profile infrastructural products used by almost everyone, whether they know it or not.
A moment of honesty: most of the software written today is not Open Source because it doesn’t have the backing of a software developer community that is providing its skills for the good of humanity. There is a limited amount of “free time” available from skilled developers, and they prefer to contribute it to the high-profile products.
If you will excuse the passion, I have this attitude toward the team I work with at Raima. Skilled developers one and all, they create source code that compiles into object code that is linked into programs that contribute value to the world’s ecosystem.
Let’s look at each of these three reasons to possess source code. First, the ability to modify existing code to fix bugs. Open Source communities normally have a procedure for you to submit your source code changes for consideration in the permanent product. Commercial corporations also welcome this, because nobody wants bugs in their product. Second, the ability to compile source code with “debug” settings and step through it in a debugger is invaluable when it comes to studying and understanding the operation of a product. Most developers don’t have on-the-job time for this, but it is essential for debugging problems, or optimizing usage. Third, the reality of corporations going out of business or not having support resources is real, and many have been burned by that in the past. The possession of source code means that there are no dependencies on other providers.
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