For all that people don’t like to work for free, we sure do like to get free stuff. The problem for most is that they put a lot of time, effort, and money into training for a certain profession, so they want to get paid for their expertise after the fact. Why work for free when you can get paid? Plus, when you do something amazing you want recognition; you want your name on it. And yet, there are people out there who labor towards a higher ideal. They want to support a culture in which professionals and experts can share their knowledge and insights with each other and the community at large in order to create a product that is not only better than one person could make alone, but that can continue to improve over time. This is what open source software is all about, and it stands to play an important role in the future of computer technology.
Now, you might not think that about the use for open source software, but you would be wrong. In fact, you are probably one of the billions of people that use it every day. Think about how often you check your email, browse the web, or otherwise operate in the online arena. Guess what: The World Wide Web [WWW] started out as open source software!
You may not have heard of Tim Berners-Lee, the man dubbed the inventor of the internet, and that is because he gave it away for free. This man could be a billionaire many times over today if he had monetized the internet, but instead he put his work out there for anyone who wanted it. And although we all pay a fee for the phone or cable line that connects us to the internet, the web itself is free to use (and if you use WiFi you won’t even pay the connection fee).
Stop for a moment and think about how amazing that is. Berners-Lee gave the entire world an open platform for communication and information sharing that changed our lives and the way the world works and he asked for nothing in exchange.
And he’s not the only one. You may think that you have to pay for all types of software, but there are free options for nearly everything, including word processing (Apache OpenOffice), photo editing (Gimp), accounting (GnuCash), chatting (Pidgin), and so on. This problem is that companies like Apple and Microsoft have convinced people that they have to pay if they want to get the best software. Plus, they were smart enough to create devices with their software installed so that people became accustomed to using their systems. In any case, you might be surprised to learn that you can not only get software solutions for free, but there are even several open source operating systems out there (Linux is probably the best known).
But what, you might ask, is the point? This is an easy one. The point is to ensure that everyone has access to the technological tools that have become an essential component of modern society. Not everyone can afford to install Windows or Apple OS on their computer, or download programs like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and QuickBooks, just to name a few.
Because the ability to operate using computer technology is so important, this disparity could lead to a major societal rift over time, creating classes of people who have knowledge and access and those that do not. Open source software helps to bridge that gap. And of course, it encourages a community spirit by bringing together people from all walks of life with the intent of creating something monumental for the good of all. In short, open source software is the path to a brighter future. That’s something that everyone can get behind.
About the Author: Leon Harris is a contributing writer for Download Haus, where you can find free gaming software and an assortment of other free software programs such as Pidgin.
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