Friday, June 10, 2011

Is "Free" software a curse?

Having just gone through a bruising series of quotes with a large customer and losing the bid I'm feeling a little dark. Not at the company that picked up the contract, good luck to them and good luck our (until recently) 'customer'. But I've heard on the grape vine that they've gone down the "free software" route. Something that as an online professional I find both amazing but also quite worrying.

Has the whole online world gone DIY? Well perhaps. You can get most things for free: Free email accounts, free websites, free social media apps, free document storage systems, free calendars, free advertising and even free sexual prowess, apparently. Wasn't it The Beatles that sang "Money can't buy you love" so presumably that's free too.

So I find myself wondering if I should pack it all in and head for the hills and grow bananas. I can at least sell them at our local markets for a pretty penny at the moment.

Then I remembered something that happened to a friend of mine recently. His identity was stolen. First his eBay user name then progressing to his PayPal account, which lead to further to freeze his real bank account, his telephone account and regular bill draws, not to mention his email and Facebook account. Ouch. Ouch Ouch. I remember at the time deeply sympathising with him as he rang endless corporations that sadly by default did not believe he was himself. It just goes to prove the adage "If you don't pay for the product, you are the product".

I reckon "free" is good if it's about beer or chocolate but I think that "free" is bad when it comes to building trustworthy communications systems and relationships. "Free" software systems are in other words also free from responsibility, security and reliability.

After that little thought bubble I'm feeling better. Free beer to all of my friends.

Digital Dave
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