Reply to post: Re: Welcome to commercially driven open source...

MongoDB quits Solaris, wants to work on an OS people actually use


Re: Welcome to commercially driven open source...

Everyone needs to make a living, and if a person can do that while working on an open-source project, that project can be reasonably certain he is going to be giving it significant effort; after all, it's his job. Otherwise, the contributor will have to spend his working hours on some other thing to keep the lights on and food on the table, and if any time is left over after that, time with the spouse and kids, errands, household chores, only then can he consider donating some of the time he has left to whatever open-source project he favors.

Someone doing coding for a living can be given a job description that includes the drudge work of debugging. It's part of the nature of work that not everything you do is going to be the most fun thing you could have chosen if you were able to, of course. But if you are the person donating a slice of what little free time he has after everything else he has to do, it's because you want something out of it other than money. A hobby, in other words, which is usually something done for entertainment.

Maybe he would be such a giving or dedicated person that he would volunteer his time to do un-fun things like debugging, but more likely he would want to do something fun like adding new features. When one's time is volunteered, no one has the authority to demand that a given contributor stop working on new features and work on bug reports... they're happy to have any contribution they can get, especially if the contribution is of high quality.

As such, I tend to believe that commercial involvement in OSS is a good thing, but it's not without its limitations. Commercial entities can always withdraw support from a project if there is not enough money in it, but that can happen even with non-profits... consider how Mozilla is only months away from stripping the defining, central feature of Firefox that was its reason to be, which is to say its powerful XUL addons. The entire point of Firefox was to be a lean, quick browser that had a feature set limited to those things that nearly every user was going to use, with the more advanced features supplied by addons rather than being part of the base package as was the norm with the Suite (now Seamonkey).

While the project itself is not being abandoned, for many of its users, it might as well be; I for one know I won't be using any version of Firefox that can't run my UI addons or provide the same functionality natively. I have about 21 addons active now (all marked 'legacy'); want to place any guesses as to whether the new FF will incorporate all of the UI changes/options my 21 addons provide? The odds are about the same as me winning the lottery (which I never play).

Fortunately, FF is open-source, so projects like Pale Moon and Waterfox are possible. Whether they get enough traction to get addon devs to continue to update their Firefox-obsolete addons for the derivative browsers remains to be seen, but at least there's the possibility. If something like Windows started to take an insane turn (and if has, of course), our only choices are go along for the ride or get off the ship.

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