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Why Open-Source Means Higher Quality
Why free open-source software products are so good?
It is somewhat counterintuitive to accept the fact that open-source web (CMSs) or other open-source projects, for that matter, are actually of higher quality than their commercial counterparts. There are several reasons behind this phenomenon, representing a peculiar mix of social and technical factors.
Why Open-Source Means Higher Quality
With software products the situation is very different from furniture and other tangible products. Almost for every commercial software program there is an open-source alternative of no lesser quality. For example, commercial Camtasia that allows you to create screen casts is not much better than its open-source alternative Camstudio. Photoshop is very powerful but GIMP is very good as well. "Free" or "cheap" does not necessarily mean "poor" quality in the software world. In fact, it often means the opposite. Here how things work in the web design field.
- Joomla and other open-source web content management systems (CMSs) are developed and supported by an international design community. If you are a software developer, it is a great honour to work for an open-source project like Joomla. Open-source projects are funded by large corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, etc. Only the best designers are selected for these projects.
- When an open-source comminity releases a product, they receive feedback from users and other designers from all over the world. Being non-profit, they are not in a terrible rush to get to the market ahead of the competition. As a result, their products do not have the same types of "cutting corners" designs that commercial software companies have. In fact, software development companies very rarely test their products in the field, i.e. no real user feedback is gathered and analyzed (hard to believe, yes, but true nonetheless!).
- Open-source software is less "buggy". Testing is conducted by dozens of designers from all over the world and in multiple rounds. There is no pressure to purposefully leave bugs in order to secure lucrative support contracts, a practice routinely employed by software development companies.
- Product decisions are not driven by Marketing. In a typical mid-sized software company of under 200 people, you will have 10-12 people at most involved in key product decisions. And none of these people have their reputation affected by releasing a poor product. Commercial software sales are often secured via personal connections of sales managers, not via real marketing or customer references. Whoever has the largest marketing budget and the best connections gets their software sold faster and grabs the largest market share, regardless of the quality of their products. This is very different from how open-source projects work.
- Open source projects do not conduct aggreessive consumer-oriented or B2B marketing campaigns to promote the benefits of their products. They are funded by large corporations, but they are, nonetheless, separate non-profit entities. They rely on the knowledge base of their design community and the reputation they have within its members. Reputation and user references are the main marketing vehicles of most open-source products.
- Furthermore, most web design shops are not interested in decreasing the development time if bill their clients per hour, so they do not go out of their way to introduce or explain the benefits of open-source CMSs. So if you are not aware of Joomla or other open-source CMSs in the first place, you might not come across this information when you do your web design research. Most people end up learning the hard way: by making a mistake and locking themselves into a proprietary CMS sold to them by their web design firm. They end up eventually changing design firms and hosting companies before someone tells them or they stumble upon advice about using Joomla or other open-source web management systems.
- Then, there is a lot of misinformation on the web promoted by commercial CMS providers who conduct routine marketing campaigns by submitting articles to various online media. Their most common claims are that open-source software is not flexible, does not have enough features or that it is hard to learn. All of these claims are far from the truth.
Take all these factors together, and it becomes easy to see why large open-source CMSs typically are of a much higher quality than their commercial counterparts and also why so few people know about the advantages open-source web CMSs deliver.