Seth Gottlieb reported that Annie Weinberger of Interwoven, a proprietary CMS vendor, launched some good old Open Source FUD comparing Open Source to a free puppy:

We look differently at the cardboard box full of free puppies outside the super market once we become adults. As children what could be more fun than to get a puppy who is going to be your friend for life? Why not mom…it’s FREE!! But as adults we have learned the truth. We know that taking home that puppy is going to cost us in the end. The free price tag hides all the costs we are going to spend on food, training, shots, and a new couch once the puppy discovers you are not coming home at 5:00 every night to walk him. Open source WCM solutions are very similar. The free price tag is attractive at first, but for online strategies that have multiple initiatives (intranet, extranet, portal, landing pages, micro-sites, etc.), the hidden fees lie in the heavy customization, maintenance and engineering work.

Puppy analogies -- especially those with free puppies -- are powerful stuff.

Is Open Source more expensive than proprietary systems? It depends. You can't generalize. Open Source implementations can be more expensive if you try to bend the software too much. However, you don't have to be a genius to understand that because there are no licensing costs, Open Source has the potential to be much cheaper than proprietary solutions, and that Open Source solutions come with freedom and flexibility not found in proprietary products. Implementation cost is an important factor, but it is in providing freedom and flexibility that Open Source wins and commercial vendors lose. Open Source puppies are "free" as in "free speechbark".

One thing is for sure: puppies attract attention; these days, Open Source does as well and proprietary vendors tend to be of the jealous type.

The great thing about FUD, though, is that it validates our work in the Open Source community. Blog posts like Annie's trigger the competitive gene in hundreds of Open Source developers around the world, and in the end, makes Drupal stronger.

A free puppy, anyone?


prbass (not verified):

The thing I love about Free Puppies is that you are free to train them anyway you want.

Want a lovable friendly pet? Join the community, and shower the puppy with love.

The problem with proprietary software is you don't have any say - it's like buying a fully trained adult dog. You can't "try before you buy" so there is no way of knowing whether it will be any good with your kids!

LeeHunter (not verified):

As a dog owner myself, I'm partial to the puppy analogy. But if someone is going to use it, they should remember that the expensive "purebred" will have a greater chance of genetic problems caused by excessive inbreeding whereas the mutt with genetic material from all over the place, is probably going to be more robust, more even tempered, with a longer lifespan and fewer trips to the vet.

Either way, if you don't take it for walks, you'll be buying a new couch. And definitely replacing the carpet too.

redndahead (not verified):

Wow this is a perfect example of FUD. Using their analogy just because you buy a puppy doesn't mean you don't have the costs of training, feeding etc.

Quentin Fortisque (not verified):

As a tip to others, don't be tempted to blog about Weinbergers opinion piece about free puppies.

For me, it's classic blog baiting, designed specifically to ruffle the feathers of open source fans...who start blogging to counter her opinion and foolishly/naively, link back to her original post and ultimately the Interwoven site...promoting their product.

Simple stuff, really.

I have to admit, though, the 'free puppies' analogy is very clever. She's good. Very good.

Unfortunately, if what she said was true, open source would have died a death years ago.

bertboerland (not verified):

In this analogy, what is the proprietary CMS? Funny to put us in the corner as the "first shot is free" junk puppies, but what are the proprietary CMS-es?

In other words, if you want a dog (your business needs certain functionality), do you get a free puppy? Or do you buy a golden statue of a dog.

The first will need training, food, love and will give you lots of love as well and does the job (and even better: does a lot more). The second is cold, expensive and doesn't really bark, move or do anything else except standing... taking place... gaining dust...

No wonder the proprietary CMS vendors have become FUD cry-babies. I get a lot of customers who used to pay 250k euros for a new site and due to the recession (?) now only have 50-100k for a nice site.

After some time they see that

  1. with views/cck/self service it does not mean that for every minor change you have to pay a 200 euros per hour consultant but can do it yourself in 10 minutes.
  2. development doesn't have to take 1 year, 5-8 people, but can be "agile", iterative, in small teams
  3. everything you know is wrong! you don't /need/ a 3 tiered setup for those 400 page views per day. you do not need a "publish" and "live" server setup.
  4. there is soooo much more in the open world, things we take for granted. Like a kick ass AJAX library, rss feeds of every list page, metadata that makes sense. Stuff we have used for years but are not
  5. the OSS world solved problems most proprietary cms-es haven't even encountered. We have anti spam services beyond the standard captcha, "they" dint have more User Generated Content then the option to vote.. on a poll...

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

Gerhard Killesreiter (not verified):

"Open Source implementations can be more expensive if you try to bend the software too much."

I've written a few invoices today, and I feel this quote can come in very handy. :)

Simon Hobbs (not verified):

"Not free" is not the same as "more expensive" of course. And I've never heard of a pedigree pooch that doesn't need maintenance - in fact proprietary dogs are often susceptible to health problems, right?

EclipseGc (not verified):

Smell the FUD folks, it doesn't get much better than this.

Open Source proclaims much the same message, you don't have to dig deep into any OSS to find "It isn't free, it just costs different." With that said, I find it highly amusing (as others have already pointed out) that "our" analogy has no second half to it. If OSS is a free puppy what're proprietary system? I like bert's 'Golden Dog Sculpture':


This may actually be a perfect analogy to use against proprietary systems... thank you Annie Weinberger and Bert Boerland (especially you Bert, that's good stuff).


Lennart (not verified):

The analogy with puppy's is misleading. Why? Everybody knows that IRL "free puppy's in the mall" aren't a good idea. But the free puppy's are linked to FOSS.

But the starting point is, that you need software, eg. puppies. In other words: there shall be a dog! So the puppy is coming ... if you pay for a puppy or not. If it's a Microsoft-puppy or a community-puppy -- both puppies need training, updates, bug fixes etc etc

libsys (not verified):

I think this is the crux of the lie being sold here:

"...the hidden fees lie in the heavy customization, maintenance and engineering work [of open source]"

This statement assumes that vended software does not require heavy customization, maintenance and engineering work. Anyone who has worked to implement "intranet, extranet, portal, landing pages, micro-sites, etc" with these big iron behemoths will readily attest to the vast amounts of work they require.

And what these companies are not telling their clients is just how far behind their CMSs are in relation current trends in web development (social software design, web standards, sematic web, etc). Most are just document management systems with a web layer bolted uncomfortably on top.

"The great thing about FUD, though, is that it validates our work in the Open Source community."

Right. I see these sorts of statements as sign that vendors are watching lots of open source puppies grow into what's beginning to look like a pack of very hungry pit bulls.

Ed M (not verified):

Funny thing about Weinberger's blog is that it's powered by Wordpress.