Open-source vs. proprietary software bugs: Which get squashed fastest?

Open-source development process is much, much faster at fixing bugs, as two studies show.

CIO magazine reports something that many of us take for granted, but which little data has previously been available to support:

The open-source development process is much, much faster at fixing bugs than the proprietary-software development process. Days faster, in fact.

CIO's Esther Schindler reports:

According to a survey commissioned by BMC and conducted by Forrester analyst Carey Schwaber, the average time to resolve an application problem is 6.9 days for enterprise developers and 6.7 days for software vendors. Ten percent of those problems take 10 days to solve, says the report. Developers spend just over an hour documenting the problem; and, if given that hour back, they'd use it to create enhancements to the application they are working on....

...Evans Data Corporation (EDC) just finished its twice-yearly report, resulting from a survey of several hundred open-source and Linux developers (with some managers, but primarily folks-who-code). The EDC numbers are somewhat different. The average time between discovery and solution of a serious bug, for 36 percent of open-source developers is under eight hours. Hours. Not days. Not a week.

While Schindler is quick to point out that this doesn't make open-source software better, let me suggest an alternative:

Open-source software is better. :-)

It's not better because the code comes out of the "womb" perfectly formed and ready to take on the world. No, it's better precisely because its transparency and availability makes bugs far easier to find and fix. The process need not depend on any particular person to find, report and fix it. The community self-selects toward solutions to bugs.

Of course, some communities will do this better, and so it's unfair to suggest that open source will always be better. But I do think it's fair to suggest that the foundation for "better" is laid with open source. What we build on that foundation is our own success (or failing).

Regardless, the next time your software fails (and it will, no matter from whom you're buying it or from where you downloaded it), ask yourself how important a fix is. If you don't mind waiting a week or more, go with the proprietary solution. But if you'd like something a bit faster, try open source. It's simply a better, more efficient software development, deliver and remediation model.

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