Does the proliferation of open source hold back software development?


I have been thinking about this question, but have no evidence on which to base my supposition that the growth in open source software initiatives may be holding back software development. Two large and really succesful OSS initiatives are Linux and Apache and they have been around for quite some time with a loyal band of developers.

What if though at the same time that Linus Torvalds was building his community two other champions of OSS also started to develop an operating system. Would the competition for developers have spread the wise and the best across projects to such an extent that none of them progresses as far or as fast as Linux has today?

I was prompted to this thought after an extensive surf of e-portfolio options and resultant impression that I am left with of the ‘primitive’ solutions available. In many ways we have actually taken backward steps from projects that were using bespoke software in the late 1990’s early 2000’s (such as ) in that:
a) the pedagogical philosophy of the software is often unsound
b) the tools available are crude and not user friendly

Could part of the problem be that there just aren’t enough talented developers to support all of the current and growing number of OSS developments? So as well as OSS initiatives driving a wide range of new technologies, they are also inadvertently making it less likely that

4 thoughts on “Does the proliferation of open source hold back software development?

  1. Andy

    I look forward to reading the rest of this article when it’s completed but for now, there seems to me to be an allusion to the process of “Amateurisation” (sometimes referred to now as “kodakisation”). It brings benefits in terms of opening up access to all sorts of technologies for end users who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity, but there is always a significant downside too. The tasks of systems analysis and detailed specification seem to have largely disappeared and are now fulfilled by the enthusiastic young coders themselves, informed only by user feedback on-the-fly and after the core structures and methods have been engineered almost by default.
    OSS is probably an evolutionary method, which means it can only make progress towards goals where there is a clear path which can be navigated through a series of visible small steps, as Linux has done. If you want to make a big leap you need foresight, planning, investment and that’s something which neither the anarchy of the free market nor the combined forces of spare time programmers may be able to provide.

    The age of the Amateur:


  2. Stephen Powell

    I hadn’t come across the term ‘kodakisation’ beore and a Google search wasn’t all that enlightening except for “Gregory describes the ‘kodakisation’ of Egypt in the late nineteenth century (1998). Egypt became scripted as a place of constructed visibility, with multiple, enframed theatrical scenes set up for the edification, entertainment and visual consumption of ‘European’ visitors. This produced the ‘new Egypt’,….”. I am not sure that this can be stretched to include the much blogged concept of ‘Mass Amateurization of Publishing’, but it might be that it is being used with a different sense.

    However, I do see the link you are drawing between my Blogging (publishing) thoughts without the ‘traditional’ publishing barriers and how this empowers me, and the empowerment of all of those coders out their benefitting from a comparable injection of ‘can do’.

    Thanks for this.

  3. Richard Millwood

    It seems important to me to critique the success of systems analysis and detailed specification as a strategy for ensuring success.

    Jensen, commenting on software project success rate, reports:

    “The problems that surfaced during the project’s inception and following downhill plunge were common in the mid-80s environment and are still common today. … The issues presented here are timeless; that is, they are as likely to arise today as they were at any time in the past.”

    IT Cortex conclude:”an IT project is more likely to be unsuccessful than successful”
    “about 1 out of 5 IT projects is likely to bring full satisfaction”
    “the larger the project the more likely the failure”
    “This raises of course a litany of questions:””would an organization be better off without undertaking IT projects ?”
    “does the attention shown by top management for strategic projects reflect the actual stakes ?”
    “what will increase the chances of success ?”
    “what edge does my project have with respect to those on the casualty list ?”


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