The Instigator
Corinthian
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Free and Open Source Software is superior to proprietary software.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/12/2010 Category: Technology
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,007 times Debate No: 13363
Debate Rounds (4)
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Votes (0)

 

Corinthian

Pro

Be it resolved that FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) is superior to proprietary (closed source) software.

When a piece of software is free and open, it empowers the user. They themselves are free to do what they wish with the software. The user can modify the software to better suit their needs, improve the design and share said improvements with other members of the community. Similarly, when the source code is available to the community at large, the user is no longer dependent on a single manufacturer for support should a problem arise. There is an entire mobilized community of users able and available to troubleshoot and solve the problem.

More superficially, free software is, well, free. It is available to all users, regardless of their financial circumstances.

FOSS can be developed and ported to hypothetically any operating system, appealing to a broad audience.
larztheloser

Con

OK, this debate really needs context. A long time ago, computers were developed, primarily by the military and universities. These institutions were research-focused. Programs were free and although technically copyright was infringed all the time, nobody cared because there was no profit in it. Then several companies, notably Apple, decided these innovations should be available to businesses. Many companies installed large mainframes with very specialized software pre-installed. Nobody sued for antitrust because there were no software companies, only the universities produced software. Then some university students decided to SELL better software, spearheaded by Paul Allen and Bill Gates (MSoft). This worked because neither Apple nor the universities had any incentive to produce good software until that point - they earnt no additional revenue for doing so. So Apple and universities began to charge a small fee for their software. It's like with book authors - with no profit in it, why write good books?

Of course, nobody could see the source of this software, as otherwise there would be no more profits. Then MSoft made an operating system - win. Win had some internet browsing software called IE pre-installed. Nobody liked IE, but it was a pain to remove. MSoft was clearly attempting to block off competition, and had to pay billions of dollars to their competitors. Without competition, there is again no incentive to make better software.

Then some IP lawyers in America came up with the idea of creative commons. This made making free software legally a lot easier. Lots of people went out and created free software. Other free software became hip, like using Mozilla over IE. All this time Mozilla thrived because IE had a team behind it whom the open source community were trying to beat - and of course, they did. GIMP likewise thrived as it beat Adobe. OpenOffice beat MSoft Office. But without a single market leader to beat, the open source projects failed. There is no market leader in PC games, so there have been no truly successful open-source games. There is no market leader in video production, so video production open source software has failed miserably. We need competition to produce good software. Without money there is nothing to compete for.

Yes, you can modify, redesign or reprogramme this open source software - if you are sufficiently nerdy - but the fact is most are not, and most will not go through the hassle if they get no reward from it. A few will, and that's very sweet of them, but these are the minority - not enough to drive innovation. Likewise for support. Most support for FOSS is via online forums, which few older people visit. Nobody in the community has any specific reason to help you out with your concern, unlike the company you have specifically paid to provide you with good ongoing support. There are also far more good books for paid than non-paid programs, and for good reason.

Cost is not usually prohibitive to software availability, and where it is, there are usually discounts offered by these larger companies. Notably MSoft offers discounts to Africa, Arabia, some of Asia and students. Portability is true for all software, and again it's actually easier to port when you have an incentive to do so. Look at Adobe or Microsoft for instance, as most of their products run on both Apple and Win computers - plus most runs under Linux with Wine.

So, I have given you some context, rebutted my opponent, and given you argument one of three: that without competition, FOSS fails.
Debate Round No. 1
Corinthian

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for a swift and well thought out response.

Before I elaborate upon my argument, I would like to agree with my opponent on one of the eloquent points he made; more often than not, FOSS thrives due to the general inadequacy of proprietary software! My opponent used several examples, among them the Mozilla project. Mozilla Firefox is considered by many to be a preferable alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, despite the fact that IE is produced by arguably the most powerful software company on Earth. Most computer-saavy users will tell you that there are better browsers out there. By the mid-1990s, Internet Explorer and Netscape's browser were gunning for market share, with Netscape slowly edging ahead. MS was able to put an end to that browser war by bundling IE with the Windows operating system and making deals with OEMs to ensure that IE would ship with every "PC". Thus, it is observable that IE is the predominately used browser because MS attempted (and nearly succeeded) in creating a software (browser) monopoly. Yet, every year, there are converts to Mozilla's Firefox (and other browsers). Why? Because in their supposed success, MS grew complacent and IE stagnated while Firefox developed further. Yes, the inferiority of proprietary software does drive innovation in their respective fields. Unfortunately, that is about all it does. That does not make it inherently "better" or superior.

The lack of a market leader in video production or gaming does not necessarily mean that there are no open source alternatives exemplify the virtues I had laid out in my first argument. There are numerous video and photo editors available for multiple platforms that not only stack up against proprietary editors, but empower and respect the user more than their proprietary equivalents.

Granted, it is not always easy to modify a piece of software. However, it is a fundamental right of the user, even if you have absolutely no clue how to do that in the first place. If you have plumbing in your home, it may be that you don't understand it, but maybe your neighbour does! They may suggest you rearrange a few pipes and valves to your benefit. You're not breaking any laws by doing that, are you? It's your house and your plumbing. Perhaps paying for a piece of software is not so bad, but more importantly, you should be able to do with it what you like. My opponent makes the case that there is no specific reason for anyone in the community to help you, however that is entirely false; they have every reason to help you, because, as we have established, the community is what drives the open source movement. It is their responsibility as the user to not only help other users, but also to note flaws that other users are having trouble with, so that they can be worked out and the software perfected. The corporation has no reason to help you. Your money is in their hands now, and while they may very well help you, they have no real obligation to help you, unless otherwise specified. As far as the issue of the availability of information, I feel that that is a moot point. The internet, and the community itself, more than compensate for the lack of "mainstream" experts writing books.

It simply makes more economical sense for a poor school or organization to run a free distribution of GNU/Linux and free software. French members of Parliament are running Ubuntu exclusively, not only because of the obvious financial advantage, but because it is a feasible, stable alternative. Additionally, my opponent should be aware that WINE is in fact, an open source attempt by those in the Linux community to port Windows applications to a different platform- much to the chagrin of Microsoft, a company which stubbornly refuses to acknowledge Linux as a platform, alienating countless potential users.

I hope that I have effectively been able to rebut my opponent's arguments and have furthered the debate. Proprietary software certainly plays a role in the development of FOSS, however that is not to say that it lends any credence to the argument that proprietary software is superior.
larztheloser

Con

When IE drives competition and the competition is better, then it clearly follows that IE is worse. But without the initial superior standard of IE, Firefox would never have arisen. So my argument is that FOSS is dependent upon non-free closed source software to operate. I argue that the drive of innovation it generates is a good thing. Now that Firefox is a market leader, they are stagnating. New features are already being called clumsy and memory-taxing - all arguments which, if I remember correctly, were once leveled against IE. So Firefox is not inherently better than IE, it's only because IE was the market leader that innovation thrived. Remember, to win this debate my opponent must show that FOSS is superior to other software, as opposed to me having to show the other way. I'd also like my opponent to elaborate on which free, open source games and video applications were successful. I've already mentioned that there are FOSS examples of photo editors like GIMP, but they were competing after Adobe.

Secondly, still under my first argument (I'll get to my second one in a minute), does one have the fundamental right to modify software? When you buy a house, it's yours. When you buy software, you buy a license to use the software, not the software itself. This is stipulated in almost every single license agreement (those things that pop up when you install software and you just click "I Agree"). The agreement that you agree to usually specifically denies you the right to modify it, unless the law says otherwise. In almost all jurisdictions, the law does not accept that this is a fundamental right at all. If you do not accept the terms of a license agreement, you are usually legally entitled to a refund.

Third, STILL under my first argument, where is it easier to get support? My opponent does not address the point about internet forums being restrictive to some types of user, and I'd like a response other than the assertion that it's moot. My opponent does say that since the online community is driven to produce the FOSS, surely they will be driven to support it. Having been a programmer, I can tell you support is not fun. To do it properly takes at least 90% of your development time, most of them come from people who have not even read your documentation, and usually for every question you answer the user will have a dozen more. I'm sure many programmers will sympathize with me here. By contrast, commercial software often has numerous staff whose only job is support - and they love it! Microsoft is a good example here. Besides which, there is a support community through many online forums that is easily much larger than for any FOSS project.

Final point under my first argument, poor organizations/France might be better off using free software (in some circumstances, most of the time low-cost commercial software is much more powerful and innovative), except 1) they're the exception, not the rule, and 2) why are they even using computers when pen, paper, and the local postal service do an even less expensive, far more feasible and far more stable job?

Now on to my new argument. If I want to develop a new 3D rendering engine, that costs significant time and effort, but also money. I need to test it on many GPUs interacting on multiple hardware configurations. I'll want a decent compiler and linker, and some software to generate the documentation, because frankly the free stuff just won't cut it for a project this big. I will never get any of these development costs back with FOSS. Now granted, many do it anyway - thanks be upon them. But these are few compared to those who want to get some sort of compensation for their efforts. FOSS is thus the exclusive domain of the wealthy who can afford to produce software for lots of money and no return or credit. It isn't exclusive to 3D rendering either - the same could be said of word processing, operating systems or anything else. Basically, the developers who have the guts to develop for nothing SHOULD be compensated more than the big corporations that don't - but those who ask for a small donation (shareware) typically don't get lots of money from this. So the FOSS model does not work. Only commercial software generates the returns that the small developers want and need to develop their software. Besides which it's also more consistent with the equitable society we live in that people should profit based upon what they produce. With FOSS those people don't profit.

So, herein I hope you have found some rebuttal and reinforcement of my first argument, as well as argument 2/3 - that development costs of FOSS are so prohibitive, they would be better off doing commercial work and actually earning something.
Debate Round No. 2
Corinthian

Pro

Corinthian forfeited this round.
larztheloser

Con

I'm glad I have no more rebuttal to do. Clearly my opponent's forfeit at this critical stage shows he has given up on the debate. I was initially going to post a third argument, but now have decided to make it easy for my opponent. If you can rebut my two arguments above, you win. You have not done so, you will not do so, therefore you don't win.

Extend my arguments.

Thanks.
Debate Round No. 3
Corinthian

Pro

Corinthian forfeited this round.
larztheloser

Con

Don't you hate it when a person joins DDO, participates for a while and then vanishes into the blue HALF WAY THROUGH A DEBATE? No? Just me then?
Debate Round No. 4
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