Importance Matrix For Open Source Projects

Dana Blankenhorn writes about importance of open source projects. The article also points to Uversa CEO David Uhlman’s Top 50 Open Source Projects (pdf). The list contains real good projects like Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird, WordPress, OpenOffice, …, well you can read the list.

Dana defines a matrix that can be used to measure importance of an open source project.

In fact, the importance of any particular project is a matrix.

  • How deep in the stack is it? Linux will always be vital because it is an operating system so many other projects depend upon.
  • How many real users does it have? This does not mean desktop Linux projects are all that vital. It does mean that Google software is.
  • What value does it deliver? Based on this I would argue that mySQL is a very important project. But remember it is also the base for many other projects.
  • How unique is it? Any project that takes open source into a new direction — to phones or inside the network — is important.

I feel following factors should also be considered.

Support For Standards

An open source project is also important if it encourages standards, e.g., OpenOffice has exhibited early adoption and support for OpenDocument format. Standards are not for namesake, they exist for convenience and benefit of the users. OpenOffice is not just another run-of-the-mill office suite. For convenience of its users it provides compatibility with other office suites. This is against the tendency of traditional commercial business where proprietary formats are adhered to for revenue.

Support For Multiple Platforms

By supporting multiple platforms open source projects can reach more users. From a user’s perspective, (s)he is not restricted to any specific platform for using the software. While this might not be possible in all cases, some projects have demonstrated the flexibility to run on multiple platforms, e.g., vi Improved, Mono.

The Role It Plays

Mozilla Firefox has gained popularity in the times of the monopoly of Microsoft Internet Explorer through high quality and exclusive focus on the user. In fact, Microsoft has been forced to pay heed to Firefox and improve on its product. Whether a direct effect or not, but the IE Team has opened up its bug database (via scooblog) for feedback. Smiles for IE team there.

Another excellent project worth mention is Nutch, which wants to promote a transparet search technology which can be completely trusted by its users. The intention is to oppose the currently popular search engines which keep the indexing and ranking algorithms a secret.

Open source paradigm is increasingly doing a service rather than just providing software. In my opinion this will really influence future software development.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

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