Open Source can be at times a challenge to explain to new users, for many different reasons:
1. Open Source goes against common sense for people who have been using Windows or any other proprietary software. The thought that all code in Open Source software is available for people to analyze and modify usually surprises people, since they are used to paying for software licenses, instead of being able to install the application on their computer, and then passing it on – which brings me to my next point.
2. Software that can be copied, modified, and passed on, will also be a new concept. People who use proprietary software will most often remember the warning on the CDs that state something along the lines of: “Do not make illegal copies of this disk.” On the Ubuntu CDs, you have “You are entitled and encouraged to pass on this disk to others.” Thankfully, with the Ubuntu CDs, there is a very detailed description of what Open Source is all about.
So, how do we, as Open Source advocates, tell new users of Linux what Open Source is, in a simplified explanation? Basically, this is my approach:
1. Open Source is free (as in cost, I move on to freedom later) because it is produced by many dedicated volunteers who take time out of their day to help write code for applications. The code is available to anyone to view and modify as they feel necessary. A program is managed by a project leader who checks the code in an application to assure its quality.
Now on to the freedom part:
2. Open Source software has another benefit, and that is the freedom to do what you want with the software. You have the ability to to modify (if you know how to program…) and pass on the software that you have. Basically, you don’t buy a license for an application, you own it.
This explanation is one of the many approaches of helping people understand what makes their Open Source software free.