Marketing of Open Source Software and the role of the End-user.

Six months ago, I as a non-geek, changed my Mac for an open source system and I am very satisfied with it. What surprises me actually is that still so few people use a fully open source operating system, so I did some research to find what prevents people from doing that.

  • Out of an interview we did among starting entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, it became clear that most of them had never heard about open source software
  • In posts on Internet forums it appears that among people that have heard about it, there is still a lot of ignorance and mistrust on the possibilities and the user friendliness of open source.
  • When we wanted to buy a laptop without a Windows license in the city where we live, we could not get it in any computer shop.

This makes clear that the barriers for people to move to open source are related to:
  • Ignorance
  • Trust
  • Availability

All of these aspects are related to the marketing of open source or in fact, the non-marketing of open source. Most open source projects hardly have a budget for marketing and their main goal is to develop the software. The companies that do have a budget for marketing mainly aim for the server or corporate market instead of the desktop users. So, it is not a miracle that the general public has hardly any knowledge on the subject.

The question arises about what can be done about it and who should do it. We
can't expect the open source community to spend huge budgets on marketing and if they did it would not be a healthy development. If more money is spent on marketing than on software development a company should ask it self what the point is of their existence. Such a strategy would certainly not fit in with the ideas behind the free software movement.

But still, the open source community is not powerless compared to commercial companies with huge marketing budgets. The power of the marketing of open source software lies mainly with the end users and in total they outnumber the amount of marketeers in companies such as, for example Microsoft, Apple and Adobe. The end users also outnumber the developers of open source who at the moment make the biggest contribution to the existence of open source software. It's the end users who should return the favor and take the responsibility for the marketing of open source. Some examples of what they can do:

  • Order or burn cd's with an open source operating system or other open source products and spread them among your friends and family and if needed, help them with installations.
  • Show people what software you use and what it can do.


Ask at computer suppliers for a computer with a free operating system or without a license for a closed operating system. Demand generates availability; if enough people do that, the market must react.

If computer suppliers don't offer a system without Windows, ask for a refund on the Windows license. A guy here at the Fedora Linux forums, who bought an Acer laptop managed to get a refund, after a lot of fuss and also Dell seems to have some kind of policy on this. You can read more about that here. If you want to do this, you should of course not install Windows to your system because then you have agreed on the Windows Eula. Best is to film or photograph yourself while rejecting the agreement. The guy at the Fedora forum had to sent his laptop to a local Acer supplier (at his own costs) so that they could remove Windows for him or check that he had done it himself. In his case it was an OEM version. For non-OEM versions you should turn to Microsoft to get a refund.

So far my ideas on what can be done by the end user to improve the marketing of open source software, but I am sure there is much more so please feel welcome to give more suggestions in the forum and let us start to become the biggest and most successful marketing team on the world..

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Last modified: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 2:54 PM