The One Word Open Source Needs to Avoid


“X is an open source alternative to Y.” A pretty common sentence, wouldn’t you agree? From this sentence alone, it is easy to guess that Y is a rather popular proprietary software, most likely paid, and X is trying to provide a similar offering, only open source.

My point is, with this kind of marketing, X may manage to attract a handful of Y users, but that’s about it. It will never go mainstream. Not even close. And you probably know about more than a few such products.

The venom is hidden inside this word, alternative. When you call yourself an alternative, you deliberately make your users think about you as secondary. Subordinate. Inferior. Surely you don’t want these words to be attached to your image, do you? Your product is unique. It deserves an identity of its own. And introducing yourself like that won’t do any good.

Take the example of Foojbook, Quitter, or the brand new Twister. All of them are privacy-protecting social networks. They don’t exactly use the forbidden word, but their names pretty much imply the same thing. They might be great, but with names like those, even if they do somehow manage to gain a large user base, the farthest they can get is the second place. They simply can’t surpass their ugliest rivals. Don’t get me wrong, I do respect their efforts, but I just can’t agree to their way of publicity.

Unfortunately, the usage of this word has spread too deep. Even if the developers themselves do not use it, the users do. LibreOffice is an alternative. So is the GIMP. Heck, even Linux. And the result is apparent.

We need to realize that those are not alternatives. They are far superior to their proprietary rivals, and they deserve more attention than they are getting now.

So I appeal to everyone who reads this, stop calling them that. If you use these or any other open source products, be proud of it. And show it off. Make the users of proprietary software jealous.

Happy computing.


3 thoughts on “The One Word Open Source Needs to Avoid”

    1. Hi Krishnan,

      Thanks for the comment. I had a look at your blog, and you too have interesting thoughts to share. Glad to meet you.

      Btw, let’s connect on Diaspora*. Why don’t you add me from the link in the widget above?

      Cheers. 🙂


  1. Wahh! Exactly this was my point I raised an year ago. I spread a few SMSes to my friends and mentor of our FSG. Excited to read similar thoughts again.

    I humbly avoid use of the word – “alternative”. I seriously cannot like these names – Quitter, Foojbook. They’re like mocking.. lack authenticity.. not true of what they are.

    These happen with me all the time:
    A: What is GIMP
    I: You use it to edit photos..etc.
    A: (Naturally they’d say in return) “like photoshop”
    I: (Only then do I reply) “yeah.. LIKE photoshop”

    Never is Linux an “alternative”… Looking at timelines too, Unix came out first than any other known (mainstream) OS today.


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