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What are the strengths and weaknesses of free versus commercial/paid software?

Todd's photo
·Jul 3, 2017

This is meant to be an in-depth discussion on the various pros and cons of free software versus paid software.

I'm a strong advocate of free and open-source software (these are not the same thing btw. Something can potentially be open-source and still earn money), however, I am not going to lie, I've definitely noticed a quality difference in software and maintenance of free software, especially where it does not have a corporate backing.

I think this is because at the end of the day, we must all earn money in order to live. When Microsoft started, Bill Gates argued and even earned a bad rap in the free software community because he said that professionally-developed software would be higher quality than free software and that developers should earn money for their work.

I don't agree that commercial software is _always _higher quality than free software, however, I do agree with those other points. If someone is being paid to develop software, it allows them the freedom to upkeep the software without the concern of having to find another income while doing so, allowing them to spend more time on the work. I believe that this fact does contribute to better software quality and certainly prolonged maintenance.

As a malware analyst for example, I use many professional file analysis tools and the paid ones are hands-down the most powerful and reliable tools I have. There is a Ubuntu distribution which also has decent malware analysis tools called Remnux, but I'm not going to lie, the tools are very weak compared with my main paid tools, and they also have not been updated in a long time.

I want to hear your ideas on all of this. I'm noticing sort of a "hybrid" of sorts now where basically companies with a lot of cash like Google and Microsoft have realized that developing free and/or open-source software does contribute to their exposure or profit model, and have begun to corporately back such projects. These projects have the advantage of having professional development attention, but the disadvantages of having a corporate goal in mind. Chrome is getting blasted for this by Mozilla right now, with privacy demoing the clear difference in interest here.