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Open Source isn’t Anti-Capitalism. Yet

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I write this inside of Open Office, and I post through Firefox (reluctantly, would use Opera if it weren’t for this damned WYSIWYG in Blogger). Quality programs, to be sure. Not too user friendly, not heavy on aesthetics (Office especially), but they’re cheaper than the alternative. Open Office is a free alternative to Microsoft Office, which can run you anywhere from $100 to $300. Firefox is a free web browser, and is directly competing with Internet Explorer (a “free” application after purchasing Microsoft Windows), and indirectly competes with Opera ($40, $20 for students).

Both of these open source (defined as “software distributed in source under licenses guaranteeing anybody rights to freely use, modify, and redistribute, the code”) programs are free and fairly reliable. I support the open source model, as I support volunteerism. But there is a movement underway, one that can potentially damage the integrity of the “open source model”. I describe it as the “Firefox effect”, where consumers will not consider a product unless it is free, even if quality and safety are involved. I attribute this to the anti-capitalist movement which has taken control over the Firefox movement. This new breed of anti-capitalist demands that websites not be ad supported, that profits made off of software and websites are inherently evil, as it threatens to control the public.

Unfortunately for these people, if we were to use the anti-capitalist movement’s model, we’d be browsing their websites on Commodore 64s on 14kbs modems. The brilliance of Firefox is not that it is free, but that through Firefox 25 million people have demanded a change in Internet Explorer. In the past 6 years, Microsoft has updated Internet Explorer a total of 2 times. In the past nine months, Firefox has been updated twice. Opera leaves both in the dust, with a total of 5 updates in one year, including tens of previews, betas (and a major new release, 8.0 within the month).

Look at these three programs, each using a different model. You have MS Internet Explorer. As the leader in Internet browsing, and aided by the default installation on nearly every computer, it has had no motivation to change. IE easily maintains a 90% browsing share, although consumers complain about its reliability, as well as the hundreds of security holes (as documented by Secunia). According to Secunia, Internet Explorer has been subject to 79 security risks within the last 2 years, with 20 still unfixed. Firefox is an up and comer, which is slowly gaining on IE (holding anywhere from 4% to 6% of the browsing share). Relying on word of mouth and advertising in media outlets through donations, Firefox has the power to change Internet Explorer’s “business” model, from being seldomly updated to more frequently. It offers secure browsing, free of charge, and I have to commend them for that. Only 3 out of 11 vulnerabilities documented over 9 months remain unpatched. Then there is Opera. A small Norwegian business, Opera lives and dies by its consumers and product reviews. Surviving without benefit of donors or attached to a Fortune 500 company, Opera must give its consumers security, reliability, and functionality relevant to browsing. 35 vulnerabilities have been documented within the last 2 years, with 0 remaining unpatched.

So we have a mega-corporation with a faulty and unreliable product, an organization with a reliable yet potentially hazardous product (through extensions, or third-party add ons to the product), and a small Norwegian company which is affected daily through market trends. Which would you, the consumer choose? Apparently, if you don’t particularly care about how your computer runs, or are new to computing, you choose what is provided to you (obviously IE). If trends mean anything, if you are a starving college student who is concerned about security (don’t want to lose your stored work), or are a vehement anti-capitalist, you use Firefox. And if you can afford it, and don’t mind supporting an overseas company for providing a quality product, you use Opera. Is there any way to change how the public thinks about these three entities? Probably not, every niche has its product, and if you don’t fit in, it seems you don’t belong (if you’re a nerd like me, that is). Hopefully, with the public awareness of browser options, all three groups will be diluted. Most people don’t have a problem with Internet Explorer, and through more competition, Microsoft can provide a safer environment for the average user. The anti-capitalists which have the potential of running Firefox’s parent, The Mozilla Foundation, into the ground, can be thwarted (and are in the process of being so) through consumer awareness and dilution. Opera will remain the same, acting as a small company among media giants. Remember, you have options when it comes to your computer.

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About Andrew Hughes

  • Andrew,

    I’m a fervent capitalist pig(let), and I use Firefox and other open source tools quite happily.

    Open source software has made a *lot* of people quite wealthy, by the way. The money isn’t being made in license revnues, obviously; it’s all in consulting services. Plenty of companies will pay well for installation, configuration, maintenance and custom development work. Plenty of companies (see IBM) will also pay their developers to work full-time on, and contribute their intellectual property to, open source projects.

    There may be anti-capitalists in the open source software movement, but that doesn’t make the movement anti-capitalist.

  • I use Firefox, as well (not predominantley, though). I feel that through the competition, MS will be forced to update its software more often (and not just little bug fixes, we’re talking a major overhaul). What worries me is, the users, although not all of them, are fervent anti-capitalists, and do have the potential to hinder Firefox’s credibility.

  • I also am a Firefox user, and decidedly not anti-capitalist. I suspect there are a hundred or more of the folks you worry about using IE for every one using an open source browser, even though all may be fretting about Bill Gate’s empire.

  • Rob

    I am a socialist, and I will not use software unless it is free. And then I donate money to the groups that produce the products that I use. I am sick of being locked in through bad software marketing.

  • Dude, that’s great, more power to you. What I’m trying to illustrate is that through your choice, you are helping everyone else out. That is hugely commendable. I’m just afraid that, if taken too far, there MAY be problems. But, fingers crossed, there won’t be.

  • Andrew:
    I like your article, it makes a good point. I’m not exactly anti-capitolist, but I’m not pro- either. I’m sorta in-between, like many European countries, I think socialism and captiolism can work together in a kind of hybrid. I’m not anti-capitolist, I am however anti-Microsoft, but that’s kinda beside the point.

    A couple things I’d like to point out that your article is kinda hazy on. Firstly, Firefox isn’t user unfriendly, there’s hardly a learning curve for most IE users. Yeah, open office can be a bit, though it’s getting better. Secondly, Firefox has been updated constantly, yes, there have been only two releases, but there have been major improvements between releases for those who want them, and because it’s open source you can easily get them. There are nightlies, which, unless you get it on a bad day, run as good, or better than, the releases, with extra features (like the middle button opening a new tab in the Mac version, which the first release didn’t have properly). Nightlies tend to have all the latest bug fixes and features (though, of course, they might have more, but if you update every now and again, maybe once a month, you won’t have a problem).

    Another thing worth mentioning is that, IE’s unpatched security problems tend to rate higher on the criticality scale than Firefox’s do (none of firefox’s are more than moderate while a few of IE’s are).

    Oh, and before I shut up, I’d like to point out how annoying it is when someone refuses to acknowledge and even try Open Source programs simply because they’re free. My brother, for example, won’t use Open Office because he doesn’t believe me that it’s more compatible with MS Office than MS Office is…

  • Andrew, just out of curiosity–what are these anti-capitalist soruces in Firefox? You seem to be talking about within the Mozilla Foundation itself–who are these people? I’m just curious.

    Also, you seem to be suggesting that many users of Firefox are anti-capitalist, but I haven’t really seen this personally. Is there something you can point to or link to, just out of curiosity? I mean, I realize there are people who work on open source software that are anti-capitalist, in a sense, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the product itself is or that translates to the users.

  • Open Office for Mac OSX is a steaming pile of crap. There are better freeware and shareware word processing packages available by the score.


  • alienboy

    SIDEBAR: What is an anti-capitalist? I can’t actually understand that term. Might as well be anti-gravity…

  • Dave, the ‘Mac version’ as you call it, of OOo is not done, it’s nowhere near done, it’s barely even started. They had to put the Aqua version on hold until the new OOo core came out. The only version you would have been able to use is an old version of the core which only works in X11…

    And I would guess that an ‘anti-capitalist’ would be someone who is against capitalism.

  • >>Dave, the ‘Mac version’ as you call it, of OOo is not done, it’s nowhere near done, it’s barely even started.<< Good lord, then what's this box I bought at Fry's called "Open Office X" all about? Dave

  • >>Good lord, then what’s this box I bought at Fry’s called “Open Office X” all about?
    I don’t know, obviously something you shouldn’t have paid money for…
    There is something called Neo Office, but it’s based on the older core (not the 2.0 one which OOo Aqua will be based on if if ever gets done).

    I’m not sure if OOo Aqua will ever get finished as it looks like people are getting bored and no longer porting it (it’s been almost four years now…)

  • OpenOffice X was released in 2002, when it was still in pre-beta. That Fry’s is selling it now, even in a later edition, says something not-good about Fry’s.

  • There’s a lot not good to say about Fry’s, that’s for certain. And I think the version I got is that original beta, not a newer version. And it is quite awful – like the first release that came out for BSD but buggier.


  • RJ

    Most of the comments are totally alien to me.

    I’ve used Netscape, but didn’t much care for it. I use IE, but it is VERY buggy.

    Mostly I use MSNExplorer, because I use MSN service to connect to the Web. I’m not gonna say it’s problem-free, but it’s pretty good.

    Should I bother to DL FF over dial-up? Is it really worth it?

  • alienboy

    how can anybody seriously be anti-capitalist? I find the concept ludicrous at best.

    to my mind, money is effectively like portable energy, in that it enables people the ability to do things, it can be stored, distributed, and used to do an infinite amount of things. If money didn’t already exist, it would be absolutely necessary to invent it.

    So, how could anyone plausibly be anti-monergy, to coin a term, ( and, hell yeah, if it catches on, Copyright me, lol) ?

    The only issue of interest is how this monergy is distributed and used…

  • Interesting take on this. slightly along the lines of my tihnking that nowadays most people expect everything for free – free music, free software, free games, free writing, free newspapers, and condemn newspapers which, for example, ask people to pay to read their sites.

    Until last week I was a proud Safari browser user. But then I noticed it was doing the strangest things, which I won’t detail here. I’ve gone back to Netscape and I can’t remember why I didn’t like firefox so I may go back and try it.

    If you’re a Windows user you’d have to have suicidal tendencies to run IE. Every computer person my girfriend has ever talked to said, don’t use Explorer.

    Just curious, isn’t MSN Explorer the same regarding security and such, seeing as how both are Microsoft. Love the man, hate his products and I don’t even have to deal with them except wasting time tryign to figure out my girlfriend’s computer. And if she’s stumped it’s likely pretty bad.

    Strangely just being a fresh pair of eyes and innocently trying things has been very useful.

  • Tristan

    I wouldn’t say I am anti-capitalist;

    maybe anti-geek though after reading through all of the above …

    what exactly does it all MEAN …???

    been using Netscape on Windows XP with almost no “fatal exceptions” !!!!!
    used to have them ALL the time with IE …!

  • Netscape, since version 6, has been Mozilla with comercialized bits stuck in, mostly stuff you don’t need or can download if you like them. Firefox is like Mozilla-lite, it’s a lightweight browser, fast, doesn’t take up as much memory, etc. So if you’ve only tried Netscape then check out Firefox, I’d say it’s definately worth it (you can also purchase a CD from there website if you don’t feel like taking the time to download it).

    Occasionally I’ve heard people complain that it starts up too slow, well, that’s only because they’re comparing it to Internet Explorer, which is integrated into windows (and thus can never close it down, and thus is a permanent security risk). I’ve also heard people complain that Mac or Linux, or something else starts up much slower than Windows, but that’s only partly true, sure it’ll bring up the desktop fairly quick, but it’s still loading stuff, it’s still setting things up in the background and you can’t really do much until that’s all complete, OS X and Linux do all that before it drops you at the desktop, AND they’re more secure and stable. But that’s sorta going off on a tangent 🙂

    In short: Yes, Firefox is worth it, even if only for the stableness, the tabbed browsing, the popup blocker (and ability to enable sites you want to allow popups), and the adblock extension which blocks all banner ads (even flash ones)

  • Norbert

    [ … and don’t mind supporting an overseas company for providing a quality product]
    that little comment kind of make your whole argument irrelevant. You are worried about ‘anti-capitalists’ yet you seriously consider that in this day of ages one could legitimely care that Opera is developed by a Norvegian company…
    Beside if one cared about that, that would give 5.8 billon people a good reason not to buy a Microsoft product… Funny how protectionism works both ways….

    [ if we were to use the anti-capitalist movement’s model, we’d be browsing their websites on Commodore 64s on 14kbs modems.]
    The model you fustigate has yielded little things like gcc, linux, apache, eclipse and countless other software.
    What your views failed to see, I think, is that open source is not about communism, it’s about power users (big and less big company) slowly realizing that they are better off investing in the code than investing in licenses. That’s how the above projects are funded. At the end of the capitalistic day, are thousands of companies are better off investing thousands or soemtimes millions of dollars a year funding Linux by providing man-power or paying other company to do so rather than paying the same amount to Microsoft ? Think about it as a capitalist investor and dare tell me that Microsoft sound like a better proposition.

  • The Damned

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent. ”
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans’ failed attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals.

    The North American continent had none. Now 99% of that population is gone.

    AIDS in Africa.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (On planets where they approved evil.)

    Terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
    1985 James Bond View to a Kill 1989 San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake.

    Many Muslims are being used like the Germans and Japanese of wwii::being used to hurt others and envoke condemnation upon their people.

    I wish I could find a source to educate many Muslim fundamentalists. Muhammad is alive. He is a man chosen like Jesus Christ and, due to his historical status, will live forever.

    They can affect the weather and Hurricane Katrina was accomplished for many reasons and involves many interests, as anything this historical is::
    1. Take heat off Sheenhan/Iraq, protecting profitable war machine/private war contracts
    2. Gentrification. New Orleans median home price of $84k is among the lowest in major American cities, certainly among desirable cities.

    Our society gives clues to the system in place. We all have heard the saying “He has more money than god.” There is also an episode of the Simpsons where god meets Homer and says “I’m too old and rich for this.”

    This is the system on earth because this is the system everywhere.
    god is evil because of money.

    I don’t want to suggest the upper eschelons are evil and good is the fringe.

    But they have made it abundantly clear that doing business with evil won’t help people. They say only good would have the ear, since evil is struggling for survival, and therefore only they could help me.

    The clues are there which companies are good and which are evil, but they conceal it very hard because it is so crucial.

    I offer an example of historical proportions:::

    People point to Walmart and cry “anti-union”.

    Unions enable disfavored people to live satisfactorly without addressing their disfavor. This way their family’s problems are never resolved. Without the union they would have to accept the heirarchy, their own inferiority.

    Unions serve to empower.

    Yes, there are many implications here, from the 60s to civil rights (which got ugly thereafter), music, movements, etc.

    Walmart is anti-union because they are good. They try to help people address and resolve their problems.

    Media ridicule, lawsuits, creations to reinforce people’s belief that Walmart is evil.

    Why is that important? Because there’s a cutoff date.
    And that date may have been 2000.

    Amercia is a country of castoffs, rejects. “Italy sent its criminals.” “Malcontents.”
    Between the thrones, the klans and kindred, they “decided” who they didn’t want and acted, creating discontent and/or starvation.
    The u.s. is full of disfavored rejects. As far as the Rockafellers, Waltons and Fords go, I suspect these aren’t their real names. I suspect they were chosen to go and head this new empire.

    Jesus Christ is a religious figure of evil. These seperatist churches formed so they could still capture the rest of the white people, keeping them worshipping the wrong god.
    And now they do it to people of color, Latinos and Asians, after centuries of preying upon them. “Only disfavored Asians.”
    Simpson’s foreshadowing::Helloween IV special, Flanders is Satan. “Last one you ever expect.”
    “You’ll see lots of nuns where you’re going:::hell!!!” St. Wigham, Helloween VI, missionary work, destroying cultures.
    Over and over, the Simpsons was a source of enlightenment, and a target of ridicule by the system which wishes to conceal its secrets.

    Jews maim the body formed in the image of “god”, and inflicted circumsision upon all other white people. I believe Islam is the one true religion, and those misled christians who attack “god’s” most favored people will pay for it dearly one day.