If you’re wondering what is open source, here’s everything you need to know. The term “open source” emerged from a software development context. It’s about designating a specific approach to computer program creation, dissemination, and modification. However, it can also be about projects, products, or initiatives.

What is open source?

“Open source” refers to a publicly accessible commodity. People can modify and share it, and it celebrates the following principles:

  • Open exchange
  • Collaborative participation
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Transparency
  • Meritocracy
  • Community-oriented development

👉 An example of open source is open-source software (OSS). Every software has source code – a set of instructions that tells the computer, program, or application what to do. Most of the time, computer users only see the source code if they’re a programmer.

That said, open-source software means anyone can view, use, and alter the source code, whether you’re a programmer or just someone who wants to learn!

Open source and other types of software

The Open Source Initiative is the steward of the Open Source Definition, setting the foundation for the open source software ecosystem. It was founded in 1998, and it defines open source as a license for software that complies with the following:

  • Redistribution
  • Source code
  • Derived works
  • Integrity of the author’s source code
  • No discrimination against persons, groups, or fields of endeavor
  • Distribution of license
  • License must not be specific to a product or restrict other software
  • License must be technology-neutral

Simply put, open-source software is when original authors make their source code available to the public who want to code, copy, learn, change, and share it.

The license promotes collaboration and sharing, encouraging programmers to use the software whenever and however they like, as long as they let others do the same.

“Open source” doesn’t necessarily mean “free of charge.” It simply doesn’t restrict parties from selling or giving away the software.

WordPress, a content management system (CMS) used to build a website, is an excellent example of OSS. It’s free to download but requires additional services to customize websites. For instance, you must pay for a domain, hosting, premium design, and plugins.

On the other hand, there’s closed-source or proprietary software, which only allows the original authors to legally copy, inspect, and modify the software. You must agree not to do anything unauthorized by the software authors. An example of closed-source software is Adobe Photoshop.

Advantages and disadvantages of open source software

👍 Now that you know the answer to “what is open source?,” it’s time to check out the advantages of open source software:

  • Using the software without licensing fees.
  • Modifying and customizing the software to suit your needs.
  • Contributing to the development and improvement of the software.
  • Detecting and fixing security vulnerabilities with a community.
  • Seeing how the software works and the data it processes.

👎 On the flip side, you must also be ready for the downsides, which include the following:

  • No guarantee of professional technical support.
  • Complexity in setting up and configuration.
  • Lack of features for niche industries.

Conclusion 🧐

Open-source technology and thinking benefit both programmers and non-programmers. It enables professionals to create innovative products and promotes collaboration in different industries. Ultimately, open-source technology provides a universal platform for everyone to access and modify freely.

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