Janik Vonrotz


2 min read

The value of code

Being a disciple to the Open Source movement I often have to explain why it is better to make code public than private. Apart from the usual arguments such as “access to better security”, “trust through transparency” or “the design is the intellectual property”, I came up with the argument of true value. Let me explain.

Code is collaborative product. Code can complied into a binary and then executed on a computer. If the code is written to solve a problem for one user or organization, it will not be executed very often. If the code can be reused with extensibility in mind by many users and organizations, it will be executed a lot. So which code is more valuable? Is it the private code that will help a company to solve a specific problem or is it the public code that helps multiple companies solving a related problem and has the potential to be improved over time? This could a be question of perspective, but …

The value of code does not depend on the difficulty of the problem it solves, but on how many times it solves a common problem. Computer science has not yet advanced to the point where code does something magical. By making code public it gains the potential to solve a problem multiple times.

Note that to run a successful Open Source project, it takes a lot more than making code public. You need people that help building a healthy community, well-written documentations and managing issues.

From a business perspective this might be obvious. A problem that is not shared by many is not worth to be solved. In the software industry most of the time one system is built for many people. But do not forget that the value of code still increases if the system is running multiple times for many users.

Does this make sense? I am not sure. Help me improve this line of argument in the comment section.

Categories: Software development
Tags: thoughts , code , open source
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