In a word, Productivity. Use of high-quality libraries like Boost speeds initial development, results in fewer bugs, reduces reinvention-of-the-wheel, and cuts long-term maintenance costs. And since Boost libraries tend to become de facto or de jure standards, many programmers are already familiar with them.
Ten of the Boost libraries are included in the C++ Standard Library's TR1, and so are slated for later full standardization. More Boost libraries are in the pipeline for TR2. Using Boost libraries gives an organization a head-start in adopting new technologies.
Many organization already use programs implemented with Boost, like Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0.
See the Who's Using Boost page for a sampling. We don't know the exact numbers, but a release gets around 100,000 downloads from SourceForge, and that is only one of several distribution routes.
"...one of the most highly regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the world."
-- Herb Sutter and Andrei Alexandrescu, C++ Coding Standards
"Item 55: Familiarize yourself with Boost."
-- Scott Meyers, Effective C++, 3rd Ed.
"The obvious solution for most programmers is to use a library that provides an elegant and efficient platform independent to needed services. Examples are BOOST..."
-- Bjarne Stroustrup, Abstraction, libraries, and efficiency in C++
For relatively straightforward support needs, users rely on the mailing lists. One of the advantages of Boost is the responsiveness of other users and Boost developers.
For more involved needs, Commercial Support is available.
Boost has its own license, developed with help from the Harvard Law School. The Boost license polices encourage both commercial and non-commercial use, and the Boost license is not related to the GPL or other licenses - that are sometimes seen as business unfriendly.
The Boost libraries tend to be new, fresh, and creative designs. They are not copies, clones, or derivations of proprietary libraries. Boost has a firm policy to respect the IP rights of others. The development of Boost libraries is publicly documented via the mailing lists and version control repository. The source code has been inspected by many, many knowledgeable programmers. Each Boost file has a copyright notice and license information. IP issues have been reviewed by the legal teams from some of the corporations which use Boost, and in some cases these lawyers have been kind enough to give Boost feedback on IP issues. There are no guarantees, but those factors all tend to reduce IP risk.
Businesses and other organizations often prefer to have code developed, maintained, and improved in the open source community when it does not contain technology specific to their application domain, because it allows them to focus more development resources on their core business.
Individuals contribute for the technical challenge, to hone their technical skills, for the sense of community, as part of their graduate school programs, as a way around geographic isolation, to enhance their employment opportunities, and as advertisements for their consulting services. There are probably as many reasons as there are individuals. Some of the apparently individual contributions come from employees of support companies with contracts from businesses or other organizations who have an interest in seeing that a library is well-maintained.
Boost doesn't really have any expenses! All the infrastructure is contributed by supporters, such as the Open Systems Lab at Indiana University, SourceForge, Boost Consulting, MetaCommunications, and the individuals, companies, and other organizations who run the regression tests. Borland, HP, Intel, and Microsoft have contributed compilers. And hundreds, or even thousands, of programmers contribute their time. That's what makes Boost possible.
Revised 07 July, 2005
© Copyright Beman Dawes 2005.
Use, modification, and distribution are subject to the Boost Software License, Version 1.0. (See accompanying file LICENSE_1_0.txt or copy at www.boost.org/LICENSE_1_0.txt)