What's the main issue that stops Open Source adoption in the Arab World? Knowledge, or more exactly, the lack of. Anas Hamdan shares here his commentary about the state of Open Source in the region.
Knowledge is the key challenge that faces Open Source adoption in our community. When people don’t know, they can’t understand and ultimately get frightened, they reject, and when they reject you’ll find out that they are opposing anything new that tries to improve their lives and even hindering its progress, this is -in my point of view- a very vital cornerstone that should be taken into account regarding the adoption of any new technologies.
In addition to the fact that Arab countries lack the necessary knowledge of Open Source concepts and technologies, these countries are under pressure from large companies that work hard to keep the status quo, companies that aim to monopolize the market and prevent competitors from developing alternatives to their products.
These companies are allocating large amounts of money and resources into a powerful strategy, from media which discourage people from accepting alternative software, to lobbying educational institutions through the provision of special promotions and seduction with money.
As a student, I was taught topics like “how to use Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Adobe photoshop”, students are raised since childhood to use such programs, only because certain companies have paid enough to those who are responsible of redacting school curricula in order to introduce such topics within schools' study plans.
This issue is unfortunately true for universities, after I went to my university to study Computer Information Systems, no one has ever told me that there is something called Open Source, for some reasons, instructors kept acting like there is nothing ever called Open Source, and when discussing about Open Source software with them, they suggest students to use commercial software as they are more reliable (in their opinion). This always makes me feel that we are victims of a 'crusade' led by proprietary software companies, which just have more resources and they successfully reached their goal.
On the legal side, Arab World does not respect copyright and ownership rights, and people still don't accept the idea of buying software, this raises a big problem: stealing programs and using illegal and unlicensed software with the absence of awareness that there are free and Open Source alternatives, some closed-source firms unexplicitely approve that and allow the use of illegal software, as people who use their software will be forced to buy them one day as they were used to use these products before.
In this way, companies are giving their products almost free-of-charge, just to keep people busy from looking into alternatives and getting aware that other products are actually free, and much better.
The majority still look at Open Source as a mysterious geeky thing, there are not enough translated documents and papers that describes Open Source concepts and principles, and Arab end users should know English to fully understand the documentation of Open Source software.
The key answer of how to integrate Open-Source in the Arabs world society is therefore “awareness”, people should understand their role with Open Source in reducing costs, raising economy, collaborating and participating in the creation of better products.
We need to start collaboration, locally, regionally, and internationally, for the sake of creating IT products that are cost-effective and scalable to our country’s economy, and this is what the Arab world exactly needs.
Open Source leading companies have to enhance their marketing, to find other creative ways to push their products into the markets. Huge companies as well, should help small Arab startups by sharing the knowledge and experience and spreading the word about Open Source.
HTML5 is said to revolutionize the web, but how well web browsers started supporting it? Does the level of support depend on the philosophy behind browser-makers and how they accept open standards? Anas Al Hamdan shares his point of view in this post.
HTML5 is the fifth version of the core version of HTML that was introduced to the Internet in the early 1990s, since then the HTML core have been reviewed and developed so as to implement a new standards and specifications.
In the last few months I’ve been reading about HTML5, as a new technology that will make web development much easy as it have ever been, There has been a huge enthusiasm about the new capabilities of HTML5, even that there’s a lot of blog posts and books suggests that there will be no need for other technologies or products to build a dynamic and interactive web sites.
The problem is that every browser has its own world, so they differ in rules and characteristics based on the brands and versions, and during my curiosity to find out more about the best supporter for HTML5, a nice website appeared on the surface, (HTML5Test.com), an independent web site where you can test your browser compatibility for HTML5 and gives you an indication of how well your browser supports HTML5 standards and related specifications, the score was calculated by testing the new features of HTML5 created by W3C HTML working group, the test is out of 400 points, where every feature worths a number of points.
I took the chance and started testing different browsers such as Firefox 4 Beta 10, Internet Explorer 9 Beta, Google Chrome 8, Safari 5, and Opera 11.01, and guess what? the results were ultimately surprising.
Out of 400, Firefox got 264 points, Chrome result was also good and had 301 points, Safari got 228 points and Opera got 241 points, what makes it really surprising that Internet Explorer only got 135 points out of 400! Internet Explorer does not support <audio> elements, generating dynamic graphics, methods for displaying text on canvas elements, offline web applications nor the HTML5 form features, isn't it surprisingly weird?
Does it seem to be very strange that a big company like Microsoft did not yet implement the new HTML5 global standards, while all other different browsers are in real competition to implement them? What is stalling them? The first time I've installed Internet Explorer 9 beta, a nice webpage appeared and promised that it will be faster than ever, the website was shine, and worked seamlessly with Windows 7, but, sorry for that guys, the promises were never kept; too much errors and weak performance which led me hate the interface, as no matter how you are good in graphics and how much you can inspire me with brilliant interfaces, I still ask from a browser to be more efficient and error-less, things that were not accomplished by Internet Explorer.
Anyway, back to HTML5. Till now I have used the beta version of Firefox 4, and truly saying, I have never found any trouble using it, even non-technical people whom I know used it after my recommendation, and their feedback was positive and they liked it, they were actually amazed by its ease of use and performance.
It's clear now that when Firefox 4 will be finally released, it will succeed under all aspects, especially HTML5, no wonder if it will be the most HTML5 compatible browser as all we know how Mozilla respects the standards and specifications.
Finally, don’t you think that Microsoft should care a little more about open standards? I hope they will be aware of the competition they are about to face or maybe they have already been into.