The Rise and Fall of Free Software

May 16, 2016

7:00 pm

Less than a decade ago, free software sent web users flocking to companies and surging site popularity. But over the last five years, the popularity of free software has taken a turn for the worst. Today, it just doesn’t have the influence that it once had for companies wanting to create community with their users and consumers.

For some, the closest transition to free software has been the rise of open-source software, but even then, there’s a new development with how this information is received and used by consumers. So what exactly drove to the downfall of free software popularity? Here are three possible reasons:

Not Enough Resources

A crucial part of the downfall of popularity for free software has been the lack of overall resources available to keep it going. There’s a level of privilege that exists to be able to create products for free, and for many designers and programmers, there isn’t enough quality resources nor support geared to allow free software to be a viable option.

Swapping The Old For the New

When it comes to adequate support, free software should remain as flexible and malleable as the programs it operates with. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. As stated in an article on Datamotion, Bruce Bryfield writes:

“In the last five years, the FSF has attempted to move into social activism, and to make its cause more mainstream…. Unfortunately, this move has largely failed — no doubt another victim of limited resources. At the same time, it has involved making a distinction between the FSF and the technically-based GNU Project. I’ve heard many developers express dislike of the activist position, and wish that the FSF would start focusing on their concerns again. In other words, the FSF has ended up worse than it was before, having failed to win a new audience and instead alienating its existing one.”

Having flexible, consistent support can be the key to developing lasting products that customers react positively to.

Remaining Stagnant

In the technology age, to remain stagnant and too cemented in one way of doing things will guarantee the end of your product’s relevance. In addition to developing products that are adaptable to the emerging trends, you should also be aware of how it works with other technologies. Free software has largely remained unadaptable to new tech, which makes it that much more nicheand obsolete.

These are only a few of the reasons why free software has met its end in popularity, but they’re also a valuable lesson to take away for anyone looking to develop products or tech that stands the test of time.

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.

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