We Are All Open Source Billionaires

April 24, 2007

After reading Where Are All The Open source Billionaires, which made very good points, I thought to myself "we are all open source billionaires". This was echoed in some of the comments.

Yes, we don't have the money, but we gain the benefits of the work of thousands of folks toiling away on something they love and giving it free to the world. As a Java programmer I can build complex web applications and not spend a dime on anything (although I choose to use IntelliJ and Textmate). Same is true of PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby, LISP, Scheme, Smalltalk, etc.

The web probably wouldn't even exist without open source contributions like HTML, Apache, Linux, etc.

Imagine you had to pay for everything you use. Some companies refuse to consider anything they haven't paid a bundle for. I worked for such a company, and we wasted gazillions buying stuff on the assumption that it was of higher quality (dubious at best), had better support (too funny), and had a broad customer base so it must be well tested (so does internet porn). I'm not saying for pay software is necessarily better or worse; in many cases the ROI doesn't make much sense if you can get something similar for nothing, and you still have to spend the same money on development, infrastructure, interconnectivity. Does it make sense for most people to buy a $1,000,000 license for Oracle or use Postgres and spend the money on a better DBA staff? For some things Oracle is the only choice, but often people assume they need it just because it's Oracle.

Naturally the overwhelming choices in the open source world themselves can be a hindrance, and much of it is not useful or represents an extreme experiment not a usable tool. But the rapid evolution and even revolution that comes from the intense open source competition creates new development possibilities at an amazing rate. If all we had was Microsoft's ideas of invention, where would be the world be?

So consider yourself rich beyond compare that you live in a world where amazing software and tools can be had for less than a 99 cent song. It's a wealth that benefits everyone.