(Not) Giving Back to the Community

Open source software is not only a great chance for software projects to make better software. It is also a great Chance for the community and companies to quickly create new products or assemble them to new products.

Among the current examples of using free software are many big names
  • Apple's OS X operating system
  • the Safari browser
  • Google's Servers (Linux-based)
  • Google's new Chrome browser
  • AnchorFree's Hotspotshield software.
The problem is, though, that many companies use code from other projects themselves, but fail to give back code to the community.

Apple only publishes the changes made to the Darwin operating system every once in a while, only that few people really care. Of course Apple doesn't want people to be able to run Mac OS X on normal PC hardware and thus does everthing to discourage too active community involvement here.

But you can only wonder how come the Safari browser, based on KDE's Konqueror KHTML engine, is still not available for Linux. Even worse, most of the enhancements made by Apple are never incorporated back into KDE. And Apple even managed to draw developers away from developing KHTML to working only on Safari. (I know, this is a big debate and flate-prown.)

Google claims to give back much more to the community than it would have to and proudly states that Chrome is made open source. But it's not like it really was their free choice. Chrome is based upon Firefox and KHTML and both are open source and at least HTML is GPL-licensed and may thus not be published as a closed source software. And most other Google software products are closed source: Google Desktop, Picasa, etc.

And one has to wonder about the big picture. If companies do not return code enhancements and help to the open source projects, the result will not only be a major frustration in the projects, but also a financial detriment for the global economy. Because only if the project members are encouraged to write free software and not only used, they will enjoy working in their free time. In their work they help to prevent a constant reinventing of the wheel in different areas of software development and fix many bugs.

In the end good open source collaboration can free up many resources and enable programmers everywhere to create new, better software much more quickly, dynamically and freely. This is something a company must consider when getting involved with open source projects and keep in mind to provide help back to the projects in terms of a significant part of the employee time, code and money they saved.


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  2. Thank you. Of course you are invited to recommend the blog.


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