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Sunday, June 19th, 2005, 2:18 am

Open Source Problem

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One issue is particularly detrimental to OSS: the issue is branching. Implementation takes different directions (often due to third-parties involved) and compatibility begins to break. Linux and its distros are one valid example. Here is an example taken from skinning (AKA themes) to support the argument.

Different unique ‘skins’ for an application get distributed or different stylesheets written for a Web-based application. This gives a rich variety to choose from, but here is the snag:

  • The user gets accustomed to the new interface
  • A new version of the application comes out
  • The user might have to re-install a new ‘skin’
  • The user relies on the ‘skinners’ to carry on maintaining the project

Some may have heard of GIMPshop, which wraps the GIMP in a Photoshop-like environment. It can serve as a practical example for the pitfall.

The take home: it is safer not to be ‘distracted’ by minor components or release variants of main-stream systems.

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