When was the last time you downloaded source code?
Seriously. Take a look at the applications you currently have running – your web browsers, office suites, terminals, graphics editors and the like. Have you ever downloaded the source code for any of them, made a change and recompiled? (Okay, all of you Linux-From-Scratch and Gentoo-ers can put your hands down.)
Firefox, Chromium, LibreOffice... all of them have source readily available. Yet I have never downloaded the code for any of them. And modifying source code is what I have spent a large part of my life doing. Sure, I've contributed to a few Open Source projects over the years. But I can count the total number on one hand.
Why is that? Why do I use so much Open Source software – including Linux, my desktop platform of choice – and yet so rarely ever touch the actual source code of the software I use? Would I even notice if the source code were not available? Probably not.
If LibreOffice went closed source tomorrow... would I stop using it? I doubt it. I like LibreOffice.
If the Linux kernel, Gnome and Firefox all went closed source...would I stop using those? You know what? I wouldn't. I like Linux. I like Gnome. I like Firefox (most of the time). I'm pretty sure I would keep on using all of them.
Which begs the question: Why do I use all of this Open Source software? Is it because of the license and availability of the source code, or is it something else?
Here's what I've come to so far: I use the software I use (including Linux) because it was made by nerds, for nerds. And I, as it turns out, am a bit of a nerd. So this software speaks to me. It resonates with me.
Perhaps the Open Source friendly licenses (such as the BSD and GPL) played a large role in attracting nerds to work on these projects... or, perhaps, nerds just gravitate towards those sorts of licenses for the projects they were going to work on anyway. But the source code availability itself? It’s not a big deal for me as a matter of practice.
I'm curious how many of you feel about this. If the source code went away for Linux, would you still use it? Or would you jump ship to a different platform? How about for your browser of office suite of choice? Leave your comments below.