Making Sense of Open Source Diversity

So many choices, so little time.

I'll make this quick.

Open source needs an app store.

No, I am not crazy. Well, not about this, anyway. I know that apps for Linux, and open source apps in general, are free and easy to download and install. They are also numerous. Very. To the point where it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of which apps are available to do which tasks. And that’s me talking--someone who is supposed to know what’s what in the community.

Without looking at Google, name four open source enterprise content management software companies. Be honest, how many did you come up with? I’ll tell you my score: three. I remembered:

After Googling, I very quickly came up with Magnolia and Jahia. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these latter two companies’ products; I just did not recall them in the flood of information out there about SharePoint-replacement, enterprise CMS systems.

Which is why I think there needs to be, at least, some kind of centralized app store. Not to buy anything (though that could be handy) but to get the information out there so customers can start making more informed choices.

To some extent, this is function SourceForge could likely perform. It has a number of free and open source apps listed already. The format would need to be presented towards end users and business managers, though, because right now it's very much geared towards the user. Ditto Geek.net's recent project directory acquistion, Ohloh.

It doesn't have to be on Grand Unified Listing, either. Even sector-based listings for customers would be a tremendous improvement. MonitoringForge is a good example of how this would work on the sector level, though again, the content would need to be re-framed for end-users a bit more.

Is this a super-critical problem? Not really. But it struck me today that the wealth of applications available from open source vendors may actually be a detriment to customers looking for solutions. Not to knock any one of these vendors, but should we let the decision on best app lie in who has the prettiest web site or the most Twitter followers?

Diversity in open source is one of its greatest strengths, but it does us little good if we can't find the best apps.

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