More on perception and Free/Libre Software and marketing

While some on FSFE discussion mailing list debate whether the term ‘open source’ is good or not, the world out there is running fast adopting the THING (whatever you prefer to call it) and considering its adoption. Matt reports about Actuate 07 Open Source Survey Whitepaper which has interesting data about perception of FLOSS (page 9):

The main perceived benefit of open source software is that there are no licence costs (56%). The second tier of main perceived benefits are flexibility (48.4%) and access to source code (47.1%). These are followed by vendor independence (38.7%), not being locked into Microsoft (38.7%), being built on open platforms (35.3%), standards-based technology (32.5%) and scalability (30.5%).

Cost is still #1 reason for adoption and high risk is still #1 reason for non-adoption. The Free Sw communities have been communicating other values besides cost for many years now, some of which are visible in the survey (vendor independence, freedom from lock-in, open standards) but these rank lower.

The Open Source Initiative, with all the weaknesses of its mission, has the merit of having taken the lead and implemented successfully a clear marketing strategy. FSF made the right strategical choice opposing OSI’s approach. FSFE had the right approach too, with a softer position (not two movements, but one movement with different terms) and the idea of the GNU Business Network. Unfortunately, GBN didn’t receive enough attention and FSFE was distracted by other issues. In the end, the results of FSFE marketing aren’t as good as those of OSI, according to the surveys.

Isn’t it time to implement a new marketing strategy for software freedom? There is a clear window of opportunity now, but it’s not going to be there forever.