In my last article, I talked about how there is a sub-set of people on-line who have a real problem with the concept of capitalism. That is, people intentionally making products and services that are designed to make money for the creator of those products or services.
But while capitalism may be tolerated by those people, some are pushed over the edge over the concept of charging money for intellectual property (such as software). While one can understand having to pay for food or cars or other tangible things, the idea of having to pay for something that has no physical form and hence no production cost is anathema to some.
The result is that a small but vocal minority of people will go out and harass those who create commercial software.
The example I gave was a the announcement of a program called Multiplicity. It enables users to take multiple computers, each with its own monitor(s) and combine them together into a single unit that is controlled by a single keyboard and mouse. At first, we saw people come on and insist it was no different than some freeware program that's available. And indeed, on paper there are freeware programs that are similar to Multiplicity. But in a similar vein, there are similar programs, on paper, to WindowBlinds such as CustomEyes. Such freeware, open source programs tend to be more technology demo than something you would use.
The response I got from people in that thread was very interesting. I wasn't aware that there were people who were really and truly insistent that commercial software and freeware/open source are generally equivalent in quality even though any reasonably experience software user knows that isn't the case.
Commercial software is almost always better than freeware. Not because commercial developers are better programmers but because the commercial developer has a stronger incentive to keep enhancing, fixing, tweaking, polishing the program than the freeware developer. The typical freeware developer is making something largely for themselves that they later decide to share with others. By contrast, the commercial software developer is making something they hope others will pay for. Big difference.
There are countless examples of freeware that is better than commercial offerings (Look how good Firefox is). But that's not the norm.
Personally, I use freeware when I can because I'm cheap. But if it's something that matters, I'm going to go with whatever the best and that normally means having to pay for it.
But getting back to the hatred of capitalism, once the argument over freeware vs. commercial in terms of software quality was simmering I also received private messages from ant-capitalists that essentially said "Look, you've already got Stardock and WinCustomize to post your spam on, why do you have to post your spam on Neowin's software news?" Which was an intriguing unintentional admission.
The Neowin.net software news section is designed for announcements of software news (I should know, I'm a news moderator there). It doesn't discriminate on the type of software. It can be free. It can be commercial. It doesn't matter. But it was very telling that multiple people objected to the announcement of commercial software. If Multiplicity was a freeware program, no doubt they'd been fine. Their hope, from experience, is to try to harass/shame commercial developers to go away.
Of course, this is nothing new. I've been dealing with this phenomenon for years. During the dot-com extremes and the height of the open source hype such people were much more numerous and more vocal as we got regular demands for us to make our software open source.
But at the end of the day, software that is complicated and hard to develop, particularly if the quality of the software has to do with the execution of it, needs to be developed by people who are paid to do it. And that money has to come from somewhere. WindowBlinds dominates the GUI skinning world because it has been continuously developed for 8 years now. If it were freeware, it would have died off long ago, I can assure you of that.
That is why capitalism is a force for good -- it provides an incentive for people to do things they would rather not do in order to make the product or service better. And that improvement benefits the user and provides resources to do other things that benefit users (such as pay for a skin site).