Why Open Source is Ruining Your Life

Fletch
4 min readOct 6, 2023

For many the world of FOSS (Free & Open-Source Software) is a breath of fresh air in what can often seem like a corporate dominated ecosystem (Microsoft, Google, Apple 👀).

But it’s not all dandelions and fairy-tails in the murky world of FOSS 😨.

Actually FOSS is a very segmented ecosystem with a lot of conflicting ideas which has lead to, in my opinion, quite extreme fragmentation.

Humour me for a moment while I explain my disillusionment and hopefully drag you down the rabbit hole with me.

I think for many people FOSS means many things, but to me it meant portability and the freedom to use external libraries with liberal to no restrictions privately or commercially.

It’s an ecosystem where every commercial product be it for image editing, video production, recording or making music, or just playing your favourite game can be achieved at no extra cost, there is a FOSS alternative for almost anything, albeit maybe in some instances this FOSS software is lacking behind their commercial counterparts — a scenario you often come to expect and makes sense, but that’s not to say the free or FOSS alternatives are terrible.. most of the time.

To the end user, I can see how FOSS seems appealing, but for the developer it feels to me like I am eating at an Italian and all they are serving is a swimming pool of spaghetti cooked by unpaid chefs, or well, headless chickens, god knows what happened to the chefs because the main dish is running the show now. It’s a mess.

Well where to start, I don’t want to get too much into specifics, we could talk about x11 and Wayland a poignant topic for me currently, we could talk about Vulkan vs OpenGL, we could talk about Qt vs GTK.. We could talk about how in some instances it’s more likely that a Windows binary will run under wine in Linux than a native Linux compiled binary. We could talk about Snapcraft and Flathub. The list of these inharmonious or even clashing ideologies that cause problems and stress and just an unpleasant experience for developers is almost becoming endless.

Sort of like a programmers Stockholm syndrome I feel like many in the FOSS community are conditioned over time to just accept this unfortunate fate.

So I am going to come full circle now and put this in simple terms, why is Open Source Ruining Your Life?

Open Source is ruining your life because it is a false prophet, wittingly or unwittingly it is preaching a false narrative, a misleading agenda. It’s not really making your life any easier, it’s not really unifying anything, and it’s not really benefiting you in any real way unless you’re a hobbyist that likes to tinker in their own time. Sure there are big businesses that run on FOSS software, but I would call that a small control group that isn't really representative of the larger open source community.

And even if it is unifying something for you, what does that even really mean to you, what value are you really extracting from that? Have you done test cases to ensure that this is actually a benefit to your agenda?

Take for example the Apple ecosystem 😬, it’s pretty closed, it’s not multi-platform at all, and yet it can be a very profitable platform to target. The crutch here is that the FOSS ecosystem is just not good enough to capture the attention of a mass market, if you want to achieve some success that’s going to be done in these closed ecosystems, not in FOSS, actually to envelop yourself in a FOSS ecosystem is to treat your audience badly, to serve them a sub satisfactory product that will target more people in theory where there are actually less people who will pay attention, and where there are those that will pay attention, you are offering them a lesser quality experience often riddled with unforeseen issues, be it down to custom distributions, window managers, sandboxes, etc.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with publishing source code and the less restrictive the license the better (MIT/GPL please) but the FOSS ecosystem and the ideology behind it, the clashing of ideologies steering it, the lack of structure and unpaid contributors has created an awful mess, probably the most disharmonious ecosystem of modern times and I thought legacy Windows API was bad.

I cant help but to feel it’s all gone terribly wrong, and there really is little worth salvaging for the common end-user. Maybe for some it is the bee’s knees but I still think that is a niche scenario when you look at FOSS as a whole — it’s cracking at the seems like the hoover dam was made out of a broken bucket collage.

Image By Eric Doyle, ChannelBiz, September 1, 2011, 6:28 pm

--

--