Viral marketing of Open Source Software

When plain text isn't enough we often need to use Microsoft formats because so many people can read them on their computers. We can't use other formats because only a few people have the software to read them.

So, let those of us who don't like this change it. It isn't going to happen overnight, but over time it can happen. I'm not going to argue why we should wish to do this, that's a whole other article, this intel is written to help those who already want to promote Open Source Software (OSS).

I use Open as my example as it is a standards compliant, cross platform, office suite that many people who are not open source advocates choose to use. The same technique would work for many other open source products, once they have reached a moderate level of acceptance.

What an individual can do

As one person, you can't do a lot, but you can do a little. As the auld Scots saying goes Many a mickle maks a muckle meaning any little help you give will add into the efforts others are making.

Whenever you need to send a document, send it in Open's native format. You'll get a reply back saying 'I can't read this', to which you reply with something like one of:

  • You need to download Open from ...
  • Oh. I'll send it in another format first chance I get, or you can save time by downloading ...
  • Sorry, I forgot you can't read those, might be best if you download Open ready for next time I forget
Obviously you have to pick your moments. It's not a good idea to do this to an important client, or with your resume when job hunting, but other than that just do it!

One thing an authority (business or academic) can do

Mandate that documents sent by applicants / suppliers are in Open format. If questioned about this explain that you use Open internally and can't risk any mistranslations

For hardware vendors

There's a local chain store that sells their own house brand of (sometimes re-badged) computer accessories.

In recent times I've noticed that they are filling the unused portion of the "driver" CDs with Open So far I've received copies of Open with a TV tuner card & an ADSL modem.

No idea why they have chosen to do this, maybe they just see it as a low cost way of making it look like they can bundle software like the "big boys"

So, if you're sending out a CD and there's space on it, pop in a copy of Open


There's many ways to get people to adopt open software. Evangelism is one, giving it to people is another, even forcing it down people's throats.

Let's get out there and get the world on open software.

I wrote this three years ago, but I believe it's as true today as it was then. This is a very slightly expanded version of the original article.
Bruce Clement is a keen domain name investor and commentator. You are free to copy this article under the licence as long as you publish it unchanged and link either to Bruce's blog ¿Que? at or to his hub site at

Tags: open source software