Why is software so poor? Is open source just as bad?

Open source won't save the world from software, because the world is still highly enamored by all that software can do, even in its buggy state.

CIO.com's Ken Harris unleashes a torrent of abuse on the state of software quality in a recent article. While he doesn't bring it up, the problem is compounded by software licenses that disclaim all responsibility for the problems caused by

We call them "bugs" as if somehow they are separate, evil creatures. But they're not. They are problems with the intrinsic quality of our product and the way it is brought to market. With automobiles, we learned that it's not always the driver, or how they drive. Sometimes it's the vehicle, and how it is built. At what point do we challenge software's architecture and design and the quality control process that produces it?

Harris suggests open source as a possible check on shoddy software quality. This may be overly optimistic. Open source by itself does not affect software quality. Knowing that one's code is open for all to see may prevent a developer from taking shortcuts that a proprietary license would hide, and a strong community might root out problems, but neither is a guarantee.

No, I think there is something fundamentally different about software. It is still "magic" in some ways. Just as a mobile phone's convenience trumps the need for a perfect (or even passable) signal, I suspect that we put up with a lot from software because it's still relatively new and drives a tremendous amount of value, even in its buggy state.

Eventually we'll expect more, and we'll get it. For now, I think we're still somewhat giddy by just how much even the worst software can do.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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