Perception vs. Reality in the IT Development Tool Bundle

Our team at G2 Crowd recently released a bundle of reports around seven different categories of development software products.  A variety of data trends were uncovered during this research. However, one trend was evident across these reports; there is a clear preferential divide between using open-source vs. proprietary software. But the level of satisfaction with the products may be in conflict.

In our research many users are quick to point out the benefits of open-source software. While being able to use these products for free is frequently mentioned, many provide specific examples of why they enjoy open-source products. Ecosystem is a term echoed by many users, referring to active communities of developers who write clear product documentation, build custom plugins, and contribute to the improvement and upkeep of open-source software. These type of projects also provide developers with platforms through which they can learn and contribute to larger software development projects, which users feel promote community and benefit junior developers. In addition the community peer review process and general transparency of the development model help keep open source software quality high.

Proprietary software garners more mixed opinions. Users from larger companies and those working on private projects tend to prefer proprietary software. The ability to have private repositories and have a dedicated support and product team included with the software make users feel comfortable in their project’s security and performance. On the other side of the spectrum, individual users and small development teams complained of proprietary software’s lack of subscription options for small businesses and personal projects. Some users also feel that the closed-source nature of proprietary software results in many products becoming under-maintained and not welcoming of customization.

While written user responses skew heavily towards a preference for open-sourced tools, satisfaction statistics revealed the opposite. Proprietary software options clearly out-perform the competition. When we aggregate the scores from more than 1,000 reviews, two-thirds of proprietary software products are identified as Leaders or High Performers for their category, in comparison to only half of open-source products.

Is there a crisis of ideology among developers? Maybe.

  • Proprietary software is owned and maintained by a specific company. This company restricts its software’s usage by creating licensing packages that users must purchase or opt in to before having access to the product. While the licenses can be perpetual or term based, the end result is that access to the product is restricted and the vendors do not release source-code to the public.
  • Open-source software source-code is shared publicly, which encourages users to view, edit and even maintain the product. Open-source software can either be created by a user and then handed over to the public, or can be collaboratively developed in a crowdsourced nature. Often support is available for a fee from a vendor, and that vendor may offer premium versions of the software under similar license terms as the proprietary vendors, but the base version is always available as an option.