A decade of development - Assignment Example

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This paper is a critique of the Journal article, “A Decade of Development” that is about the development of free software and its popularity and acceptability by the software developers community over the last decade or so. The article details the travails of free software…
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This paper is a critique of the Journal article, “A Decade of Development” that is about the development of free software and its popularity and acceptability by the software developers community over the last decade or so. The article details the travails of free software proponents like Richard Stallman, David Wiley and Lawrence Lessig. The article focuses on the aspect of how free software came to be developed and introduced as an alternative to the established norms of paying for the software that one uses.
The genesis of free software lies in the way in which the pay for use software came to be used. With the introduction of the Microsoft suite of products that were designed to be used on a license basis and the resultant need for patches and upgrades met only through paying for the same instead of having a way to program the upgrades by the users themselves. Particularly telling is the instance of how Richard Stallman could not insert his code into the working of the printer software thereby having to wait for the upgrade from the manufacturer.
This example typifies the approach of free software activists towards the concept of paying for the software. They insist that the source code of the software must be made available to everyone and those additions and insertions to the source code should provide a way of customizing the software according to the needs of each individual. Similarly, Lessig’s approach of making the content free is discussed as well.
Lessig’s approach is the backbone of what is called as the “creative commons” license. According to this paradigm, content should be free of commercial attributions and once the source code or the content is developed, anyone should be free to add his or her code or content to the existing base and use the modified version without paying any fees. Of course, the creative commons license specifies how the original developer needs to be acknowledged for his or her work and in the later years; this became a bone of contention as well.
The most famous example of free content and one that can be editable by anybody is the case of Wikipedia. This is an online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit and add information to the existing body of knowledge. Considering the fact that this site is one of the most popular sites on the internet and the visitors to this site run into the millions, the concept of free content and open knowledge has indeed caught on.
However, as the article points out, there were several hiccups along the way as evidenced by the instances of license incompatibility and economic sustainability. These issues have to do with the fact that free software is not economically viable and the developers of the free content do not get enough by way of fees and royalties and hence they do not have an incentive to develop more of the same as happens in the case of conventional software developers. Further, there are issues of license incompatibility that happen because of the way in which the software is used to add or modify the source code without proper attribution to the original developers.
In conclusion, whatever may be the pitfalls associated with free software, the future of free software looks bright as the next generation of products and gadgets that would be built would be based on the application of community driven software instead of monopolised software. Hence, the software developer community must take cognisance of this changing trend and incorporate elements of the free software model instead of resisting the same.
Wiley, David and Gurrell, Seth (2009)A decade of development…’ Open Learning: The Journal of Open and
Distance Learning, 24:1, 11 — 21 Read More
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