Why open source software is not better

I have been thinking to write something about Firefox and open software for some time. Let me begin by saying I have no problem with open source as a concept. I think it is great and there are some very powerful programs out there. My problem is really with the open source community and their mind set that closed software is bad and open source is better. Please get over yourself already, seriously.

Open source is not better and not worst by design. In the end it depends on the program that you create. Let take my most exposed open source program as an example, Firefox.

I have been using Firefox since version 1 was release all the way back in 2004. What has drawn me to Firefox was the fact that it was small, fast and so much better than IE at the time. In fact it is still is, but not for the reasons that you think. I think it underlying technology is better supporting that that of IE. It supports more web features and it works great with most to all my websites that I use. So where does it get undone?

Well, there is not a lack of engineers working to advance to technology. There is also not a lack of beta testers and even nightly testers. So where have they gone wrong. For that you have to look at IE and how it was designed. You see when Microsoft designs something, they have not only programmers in the room, they have designers, user experience experts, power users. And while they build this experience, they use their workers to beta best and give then feedback.

What do we get from Mozilla? We get half-baked ideas that take several versions and multiple bugs to get it to work properly. Apptabs in Firefox 4 is a great example of this. They have finally managed to get AppTabs to work properly in Firefox 8. That is 4 releases later. Is this rapid release really better? Let’s just frustrate users for 23 weeks with a half-baked idea until we get it working. Meanwhile, look at all these shiny new things we added but no one cares about…

That to me is why I open source fail. There are too many engineers involved and the focus is features. Where the closed source people know they have to sell a working program, so they focus on user experience throughout the design process and it is not just an afterthought…

So please all open source advocates, your software is not better because it has more features, it needs to be as easy to use as the programs it wants to replace to be truly better.


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