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Discussion on: Is Free and Open-Source Software More Reliable?

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kovah profile image
Kevin Woblick

I think it's not that easy to claim that "open source is more reliable" without any differentiation.
If you take a look at the big open source projects, like Linux OS, programming languages like Python, or generally very popular software like Curl, your claim is absolutely correct. Those projects have like a thousands eyes staring at the code, they are used by thousands of enterprise-level companies all around the world and are probably more reliable than any closed source software.

If if comes to smaller projects, this might not be true anymore. Most small projects have only one maintainer, the software is not used by companies but only individuals, and so on. Closed source projects, in comparison, is mostly backed by money as it's either sold or has other financial backing. I could imagine, that this software is then more reliable than other software of the same field as the maintainer have a financial interest in being stable and reliable.

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kailyons profile image
KaiLikesLinux Author

I disagree, smaller projects have fewer eyes, sure, but as hackers and virus makers target Windows for its market share, smaller projects are just as secure and reliable because there is less targeting of that software to cause intentional bugs. A hacker or virus maker will not target the small fish, they go for big fish. While it might only have one maintainer, small open-source projects do get adopted from time to time by large corporations (whether to make things slightly easier or other reasons). Not all FOSS software will be used by corporations, but a lot of it might be. And with closed-source, the claim "that this software is then more reliable than other software of the same field as the maintainer have a financial interest in being stable and reliable," it is not usually correct by any means. While yes, there is a "financial interest," remember that the person(s) behind the project have no outside contributions, meaning fixes are slower and more botched than professionally made, to later fix with time. You are right about the fact they do have financial support, but it isn't enough to say that a small team will actually try to make great software, they just need it to be good enough. With open-source on the other hand, passion drives the software, and if a small team exists, even if the software stops development, it will never truly die. Proprietary is FAR less stable and reliable in long-term support. Let's say Adobe randomly comes out as bankrupt, and they file to shut down all operations, what would companies do if they used Adobe products? Well they will need to go through the massive expense of switching to different software and cloud solutions. If an open-source company like Canonical went under, hundreds of developers are ready to pick up the open-source technologies and keep them alive. If a small team worked on an open-source project that was used by NASA for mission critical stuff stopped working on the software, NASA can literally throw a couple employees at the problem to keep everything flowing smoothly. If NASA instead went with a closed-source option, it would be leagues more difficult to work with and fix.

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