Home / Bugs and eyeballs

One of the most popular open source myths is ESR’s oft-quoted statement:

given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow

That part is actually true.

What is not true is that open-source projects have eyeballs to spare.

Advocates could claim that open source is inherently better, more secure and has less bugs if there were trains of trained professionals dying to look at the (open) source and contribute code, bug fixes and documentation to open source projects.

Back in the real world: lack of contributors is the biggest problem of every open source project I’ve ever seen.

Even the most sexy, most visible projects like Linux kernel, Apache or FireFox, don’t have enough developers.

There is a reason why it took Mozilla 4 years to ship a new release.

With smaller projects the situation is not just bad, it’s desperate.

Conclusions:

  • never fall for “a lot of eyeballs” propaganda; it’s not true
  • if you start an open-source project expect to not get any help; plan for it
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