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Open source is the next big thing for desktops; it is the back bone of the internet and all the servers running widespread around the world. So why do people use FOSS, some advantages include:
1.    The availability of the source code and the right to modify
2.    The right to use the software in any way
3.    Core software is free
4.    Evolving software
5.    Encourages hands on
6.    Not tied to a single vendor
7.    Big community to support
8.    Easy Localization
9.    Better Security
10.    Reliability & Stability

1.    The availability of the source code and the right to modify: is the primary and on of the most important advantage of the open source software. The users can easily change the code to suit their needs. This apprehends the idea that ideas sell rather than only products do. So if you are skilled in any open source tool or language you can modify other’s source code to meet your customer’s needs.

2.    The right to use the software in any way: In any way may be an overstatement as the licenses govern the use of the software. But still it combined with redistribution rights, ensures (if the software is useful enough), a large population of users, which helps in turn to build up a market for support and customization of the software, which can only attract more and more developers to work in the project. This in turn helps to improve the quality of the product, and to improve its functionality. This, once more, will cause more and more users to give the product a try, and probably to use it regularly.

3.    Core software is free: If you’re just getting started in online business, cost can be a major factor. Using Open Source software can really cut down on your initial capital outlay. It’s also a firm belief that the Open Source community has helped to rein in prices on commercial software over the years. You don’t pay for the core software but you might have to lighten your pocket for modifying the software or contracting some company for support and maintenance.

4.    Evolving software: Some Open Source software projects can have huge communities of programmers involved, allowing for the rapid implementation of new features and security fixes. The communities of users and programmers are also invaluable resources for asking questions relating to troubleshooting and suggesting enhancements. The software like bugzilla, open communities, forums and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) are the tools that the developers and programmers use to continually update the software.

5.    Encourage hands on: When you’re short on cash, you are more than likely to want to make modifications to software yourself. Use of Open Source software encourages to go beyond the user interface; to dig into code to try and understand what it does and to make minor edits. As a business owner, it doesn’t hurt to understand a little of the voodoo that goes on behind the scenes in the software you use on your site. So it does let you have a taste of what a programmer really goes through when programming modules.

6.    Not tied to single vendor: If you purchase a commercial application, you can then become reliant on a single company to solve your problems and maintain the software - which can also be very expensive. Some commercial software companies may only provide support and upgrades for a limited time before you need to fork out for any further enhancements or assistance. This clearly shows a high degree of lock in on the customer’s side. As open source software are mainly owned by a community a community is there to support so you are not linked up with a sole vendor if that vendor doesn’t support you are doomed. In case of open source if one person does not support there may be others to do so.

7.    Big community to support: Though it may seem that free and open source software is only for programmers but its not the case. There is a big community after free and open source software. It not only about programming but about the open source movement that incorporates people who submit bugs, who test etc who do not need to be core programmers. An example can clarify the growth of community, in case of  Drupal (a content management system under GNU GPL license) users, it had around 300 Developing users in Oct -2005 that rose to around 550 developing users in Oct- 2006. The number of Drupal related projects swung from 423 in Oct-2005 to 1173 in Oct-2006.

8.    Easy Localization: Proprietary vendors are motivated by global profit-maximization strategies and hence they do not care about local issues and user needs- unless they matter in a “global context”. FLOSS encourage adapting locally relevant needs, culture in the software. It is also easy to localize open source software as there is availability of code and mechanism to localize the software. Ex: Linux localization was to serve the Nepali Linux users where as Nepali Version of Windows was to capture the market.

9.    Better security: As there is a community behind the software not just a software development team, the bugs if they exist are reported rapidly and they are solved as soon as possible. This enables better security system. Any loop hole or but is found out faster as the source is open anyone who sees a bug can report it and can even suggest solutions for the bug making it more secure.

10.   Reliability and Stability: This also compliments security, a classic example is why switch to Linux from windows, not just because it’s virtually virus free but because of its reliability, stability and configurability. So if the source code is open it will provoke users to read it and find you any bug or code segment with error that will be solved by the original developers or others who can which will result to reliable and stable software that also with legally viable license.

So now its time to jump off the proprietary bandwagon and jump into the “Free” world of FOSS.

Aound 1100 Words
Geshan Manandhar