Yesterday I was reading a book by Paco Underhill regarding buying trends at malls and retail stores (more on that in a separate post). And, I was wondering when was the last time I went out and ‘bought’ software. Some brain_cpu cycles later it struck me that the last piece of software that I purchased was this one, since the preloaded version that I got saddled with had come unstuck. This was after I had bought Red Hat Linux from FreeOS.

A strange sensation really. I use and consume software or, software as a service, on a daily basis. And, if one discounts the OS pre-loading on the cell phone, I have not actually gone ahead and bought software for around 10 years now. I do my bit for various FOSS projects, chip in with money to a select few or nudge-push-poke some projects to become better. But, living a decade and functioning fully without having to commercially purchase software is something that is totally jaw droppingly awesome. The software development model of FOSS and the collective collaboration that it spawns makes it possible.

And, then we wonder, why is it difficult for more people to really ‘get it’.

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7 thoughts on “”

  1. Arguably, users “purchase” ad-supported software, albeit indirectly, by watching the ads that pay for the software to function. Certainly, that wouldn’t include FOSS desktop apps, but could include, say, Gmail.

  2. It’s worth noting that in the context of Open Source philosophy buying and selling software is irrelevant to the freedom of the software.

    There is nothing inherently good or bad about “not buying software in the past ten years.”

    If you put value in it, there is nothing wrong with that value being a monetary one. Open Source only talks about the freedom to use it; not the freedom to place whatever value (even monetary) on it. If a person wants to purchase software that he/she finds useful (and we’re talking of ‘purchasing’ outside the situation of being locked into a closed-source product) then there’s nothing wrong with that.

    And the corollary is, that if a user genuinely admires a piece of closed-source software and wants to use it — even pay money for it — there’s nothing wrong with _that_. You can’t take away the value he/she puts on that software himself, or say that he has misplaced his value — value (and software value) is obviously subjective.

    The fact that you haven’t bought anything means you’re quite satisfied _not_ buying anything. But it doesn’t mean other people can’t find satisfaction in investing monetary value in a piece of software. This doesn’t contradict the FOSS development model at all.

  3. Many of the power users are not watching ads at all. Even though Firefox is essentially ad funded as well, the number one extension ironically is adblock.

    Some of us use gmail but via a desktop client that shows none of the ads. Maybe the value of gmail is more in brand propagation and custom deployments for enterprises rather than ads.

  4. Absolutely, in the context of Open Source/Free Software as a development model for software it isn’t important (or even relevant) that people buy/purchase software. However, what is somewhat of note is that the model lends itself to a society where infrastructure can function without ‘paying for software’ and ‘subscribing to services/support’.

    The nub of that statement is that the world of lock-in software or, a stage where binary bits are priced isn’t quite true. There is an alternative that sometimes most people who begin to use-consume FOSS tend to miss.

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