The Fear Of Freeloaders Overblown In Both Proprietary And Open Arenas
from the stop-worrying dept
I remember reading a while ago how if you look at the extremists in diametrically opposed political parties, they tend to have a lot more similarities rather than differences. It seems that may be happening in the proprietary and open source worlds as well. We’ve discussed how silly it is for companies and individuals trying to understand “free” business models to worry about freeloaders. The fact is, yes, some people will get stuff for free and not contribute anything back. In fact, it may be a lot of people. But if the end result is that you are actually making more money overall from those who aren’t freeloaders, who really cares? In some cases all those “freeloaders” are actually giving back in other ways, such as by amplifying and promoting your message for you, and bringing in new potential customers that wouldn’t have known about you otherwise.
For the most part, I assumed this was an issue for those with “proprietary” content/software. But, suddenly it’s an issue that’s getting attention in the “open source” world, with supporters of open source complaining about “freeloaders” who use open source software, but don’t contribute back. This is silly. As Joel West points out, the whole point of open source software is that it can be used for any purpose. So, just as proprietary content creators shouldn’t worry about freeloaders and focus on those who actually do contribute, the same is true for open source developers. Sure, some will freeload, but don’t worry about them. Let them do what they want, and focus on providing more value for those who do contribute. In the end, the overall benefit will be much greater.