I’ve seen it happen time and again. Companies and individuals go out of their way to write great open source software, then, when the moment comes to let the world know about it, they (and/or their early adopters and proponents) present it as “an alternative to [proprietary solution] Foo”.
That’s bad when Foo is an established player:
- Firefox, the alternative to Internet Explorer
- Ubuntu, the alternative to Windows
- OpenOffice, the alternative to Microsoft Office
- Neo1973, the alternative to iPhone
But it borders on self-flogging nonsense when Foo is not even in the stores: Linux MPX Multi-touch Table May Become Alternative Microsoft Surface.
When you frame things like that, you’re giving positive (and free) advertising to the opposing party. At least for me and for those I asked, the following accurately portrays what the phrase “alternative to Foo” brings to mind:
Whether you’re the author of “Bar” or a passionate user advocating it, is that really the picture you want to suggest? (This, by the way, is why there’s no place for things like alternative to MSN/AIM/YahooIM/whatever on sameplace.cc, despite much well-meant advice to the contrary.)
“Oh, that’s all good and well, but how am I supposed to advocate Firefox to someone who doesn’t even know what a browser is? How, if not contrasting it to something they know, such as Internet Explorer?”
If you’re advocating a product, and genuinely believe that it’s better (if not, why are you advocating it in the first place?), that is the idea you want to get across.
“Oh, you’re still using this to browse the ‘net? Haven’t you upgraded to Firefox yet?”