The irony of huge open source softwares

You were supposed to destroy them, not join them!

1 min read    05 Nov 2018    

The core idea of open source is if people wish to make modifications in your software, they can create their own fork (version) and keep making changes to it as they please, and if possible, distribute it based on the licensing of the original product. A lot of new open source contributors start off to rebel against the norms of commercial, close-sourced softwares which are sometimes rigid to user suggestions, or perhaps in some cases the users are themselves more capable of incorporating the changes than the company providing the actual software, and don’t trust the company to do it right.

Often, when people show their displeasure with the product, maintainers (sometimes other trolls) often suggest

why don’t you fork it and do whatever you want to do with it?

However, there comes a time when a project has gained popularity, and there is more than just one core collaborator. Often, a product grows through the suggestions it receives in the form of issues, and the main maintainer accepting it, and so on. However, it is possible that the suggestion might not be in line with the ideology of with the original product, or was conceived to have a different design. Sometimes, it’s entirely possible that a suggestion is turned down due to ego issues (or it might be interpreted that way). But what about projects with a core team of 20 folks? Surely there’ll be no individual egos clashing there.

Turns out, maybe not. Recently, some issues/suggestions raised on golang’s repository were met with the following reply:

We had an internal meeting and decided not to go further with this idea.

Ouch. The idea with open source softwares was to welcome ideas from the users. However, an idea might be shot down based on genuine reasons like the possible implementation of idea clashing with one of the underlying processes, in which case that makes sense.

The only solution in those situations, is really to just fork off, and make your own changes. But to end this article on a lighter note, many big corporations have started open-sourcing their developer-focused softwares (vscode is a great example). This not only allows users to truly feel comfortable using these softwares, but it’s great PR for the company as well. This is definitely a welcome change, and it makes my day slightly better knowing another big corp embracing open source.

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