For me, (FOSS) Free and Open Source Software, is important for a few reasons.
Most importantly, to me, is that in the future, global human society will share a large, open source code base to support all sorts of needs and problem solving and will be available for students, designers and researchers to combine in unique and new ways.
You can also see the code, and so can others, so the community can review it to make sure there is nothing malicious inside, like stealing design ideas or embedded spyware that sells private data on your machine to marketers, etc… That will be very important, more important than it is now, in the future.
It can’t be cancelled. You can always fork Blender, a new group could maintain it’s own version side by side the current version. The work, from the community, that goes into learning and developing Blender, will for that reason, be ensured to live a longer life. Work towards learning, or developing for, closed source software, can be cancelled and rendered nearly useless, by a company director who’s focus is on shareholder profit. If you had, for example, developed a great workflow and set of scripts/plug-ins for Softimage, you’d be out of luck as it’s officially a dead software, that will never see a new updated release, and it’s last version will age badly over the coming years, making those past efforts and years of community development, dead and gone.
What if you knew how to code and really wanted to make a great piece of 3D software for a browser or for a tablet/phone. Blender’s code repository is there to use and be adapted and re-compiled for any purpose, so long as you follow it’s license. You could even include a part or all of it’s code, in a larger FOSS project. For example, you could make a virtual reality world, and include inside of that world, a full 3D Development program.With commercial software, you couldn’t legally do this, without special deals and or crazy fees. It creates for some interesting possibilities that would not be otherwise likely or viable.
The code is open, so if you have the skills, you can just go right inside and fix/change anything you want or don’t like. You could also hire your own programmer to do this for you. I think that the “traditional industry” will eventually come to love this in the future as they continually pay a small fortune in software licensing fees and support services and still have to hire an in house team of on-sight programmers to customize their development pipeline, via all sorts of scripts, plug-ins and custom software that bridges two or more pieces of commercial software together. The nice thing about Blender/FOSS, is that if you make add-ons, you are free to keep them private, you are free to give them away, and you are free to sell them.
It’s free, as in free beer. There are times when you are broke (a high school student just starting an interest in 3D), or your school/organization can’t initially afford to invest in commercial software. Imagine a science/mathematics/engineering researcher that needs to visualize some calculation or simulation, and they really need to dedicate their entire budget to more pressing issues, Blender is always there for them, along with a great community to help them solve complicated problems.
Those are just some benefits. But the principal, I think is the greatest benefit. Think of what library systems did for societies, both before the revolution of the printing press and after, as well as before the revolution of the internet. The free, dissemination and sharing of information (including computer code) can be and is, as revolutionary as libraries once were.
That said, programmers need to eat. So if you see one, give him a bagel, he’s probably hungry… No just kidding, if you use the software and you have the funds, please donate if you can, it’s a gift to the world.