"Despite apparent similarities, open-source software is distinct from free software. The Free Software Foundation's (FSF) free software definition is more restrictive than the Open Source Definition; as a consequence of this, free software is open source, but open-source software may or may not be free."Now granted a large majority of open-source is indeed free but the fact that some isn't I'm sure is slightly alarming to the socialists among us. Here again is the real point, people talk about how great open-source is and pander it's ideology. When in reality all anyone truly cares about is one of two things:
1. It is Free Software
2. It is Anti-Commercialism/Capitalism, in other words - Anti-Microsoft
Programming is not an easy quick task that many are willing to do for free. I'm sure some nieve idealists would if they had some other way to live. The fact of the matter is the best open-source projects are money makers and/or are backed by large corporations who have talented programmers and engineers on the payroll. Some of the most popular and well developed open-source projects such as OpenOffice and the Mozilla Project which inclues the Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird Email Client are funded by Sun Microsystems which for various reasons has legitimate issues with Microsoft. This is one reason these projects exist as open-source and are in such a highly finished competitive state. They compete directly with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Outlook and Office line of software.
The big picture becomes even clearer when you look at the most successful open-source Linux distribution Red Hat. Their business model is of selling software with support packages for the server market. The key word here is they are "selling" open-source software. Idealists and Socialist fail to grasp the concept that you need money to live. In this respect you start to see why certain open-source advocates are quick to separate themselves from the public perception that open-source is free software. They instead focus on the ability of open-source to be easily modified and redistributed. Fair enough but this is far from commonplace.
I'm sure if you talk to enough open-source advocates they will all admit to using this feature of being able to modify the software. Now in reality how significant the personal modifications are as opposed to the large majority that wait for the handful of actual open-source developers to release their latest build seems more likely. In which case you get back to the fact that the majority uses open-source for one of the two reasons I mentioned above. In which case you have hypocrisy.
Open-source appears to be free when it is convenient. Right now it is very convenient. Microsoft is the big bad guy on the block and marketing the free alternative plays to the idealists. If all open-source software was truly free then you could do anything with it, including sell it as your own. Try selling Red Hat's Server software as your own, that's what I thought. I honestly don't care what any open-source advocate tries to say to change what they think the public's perception of open-source is. The general public considers open-source software as free, no cost software. Very little if any attempt is made by the open-source community to change this perception. If anything it is the driving force behind its success. This is almost as bad as the misleading perception that open-source is this huge public development community. Tell that to the closed group of paid programmers and engineers on Sun and IBM's open-source development teams.
I don't necessarily dislike or have a problem with open-source, rather I am very cynical about the economics behind it and the misleading public perception of it. Can open-source truly be free? In certain situations I believe it can but as a whole, economics has a way of bringing reality to even the most idealistic of us all.