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 .:: Advocacy Index ::.

*List of Recommended Reading

*The Case for Open Source: For Business

*The Case for Open Source: For Customers

*The Case for Open Source: For Hackers

*Case Studies and Press Coverage

*Frequently Asked Questions

*Jobs for Hackers: Yes, You Can Eat Open Source

*Software Secrets: Do They Help or Hurt?

*Why "Free Software" Is Too Ambiguous

*Shared Source: A Dangerous Virus

The Open Source Case for Customers

Beyond all the reliability and quality gains we've discussed elsewhere, the open-source model has one overwhelming advantage for the software customer: you aren't a prisoner.

Because you can get access to source, you can survive the collapse of your vendor. You're no longer totally at the mercy of unfixed bugs. You're not shackled to every strategic decision your vendor makes. And if your vendor's support fees become exorbitant, you can buy support from elsewhere.

For this reason alone, every software customer should absolutely demand open source and refuse to deal with software vendors who close and shroud their code. It's a matter of controlling your own destiny.

(And yes, we'll say the M-word ... don't you want to be out from under Microsoft's thumb?)

You Are Your Developers' Customer!

This customer case for open source may apply even if the software you're concerned about was developed internally and never for sale on the open market.

We hear of one case, for example, in which a few employees at a large Internet-equipment manufacturer developed a distributed printing spooler that is very important for company use, but completely unrelated to the company's normal expertise or line of business. Now ... what happens when those employees leave?

Under the closed model, this large company would be stuck ... with decaying software or an expensive retraining job.

But now imagine that the company released the spooler as open source and helped it find an interest community on the Internet. Now, when the developers leave, someone else might step in at no monetary cost to take over the software. At the very least, there's a known pool of people with an interest from which the company might hire replacements.

Open source empowers the customer, even when the producer and customer are part of the same firm.

Freedom from Legal Entanglements

Using most commercial software involves software licenses, and tracking software copies and usage. This demands record keeping, and legal exposure. Both raise costs. Thus, juggling software licenses and copies is a source of costs to businesses, and legal risk to businesses and individuals.

In many (most? all?) businesses, such tracking is imperfect, sometimes intentionally, usually not. Any such imperfection exposes the guilty party to legal actions (fines, litigation, arrest) due to breaking laws and violating copyrights; an intellectual property quagmire.

Most/all open source software can be freely copied and used. There are no licenses to track and thus no related costs, or legal risks.

Standard Objections

There are a couple of standard customer objections to the open-source model that deserve to be exploded. We cover these on the Frequently Asked Questions list.

You probably also want to look at the business case for open source for discussion of the reliability gains from this model.

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