What is Open-Source?
Open-source software is essentially a crowd-sourced software that is openly and freely accessible to everyone. Generally, it’s maintained and enhanced by a community of developers who collaboratively contribute to its source code and/or to extensions of that code. The very nature of open-source is to have a license in which the originator or publisher grants users the rights to change or copy the code. And in the most flexible licenses, such as the MIT License, users are granted the rights to copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies.
Key Benefits of Open-Source
- Transparency; with visibility into the code base, there’s less risk of unforeseen limitations that may exist in proprietary systems.
- Shared investment in success; when a community invests their effort into open-source, there’s a mutual interest in the outcome.
- Merit based; without the drive toward corporate profitability, the direction of open-source can be toward the most useful solution.
- Less chance of stagnation; when one company solely controls development, there’s a higher risk of complacency.
- Faster evolution; with a broad base of input, development can evolve more rapidly than if controlled by one entity.
- Cost effective; without initial or ongoing licensing fees, there’s often a lower long term cost of ownership.
- Freedom of movement; proprietary software locks clients into continuing to work with the vendor who created it.
Myths About Open-Source
- It’s dangerous because you don’t know who created it
- It’s not secure; hackers have access to the code
- It’s created by amateurs
- It’s low quality because it’s freely available
- It’s a fad or trend
Why Should You Consider Open-Source?
While there are numerous reasons to consider open-source software solutions as opposed to proprietary ones, there are three broad reasons in particular that stand out. First, there is the pragmatic consideration of open-source. The transparency, collaborative nature, faster evolution, and cost effectiveness are all tangible benefits to companies who utilize it. Second, there is an inherent wisdom of the crowd who contributes to open-source development. Given the complexity of technology and software, there’s much greater creativity, insight, and vetting of software solutions among a large base of support. Third, open-source is the primary driver of democratization in technology. It helps facilitate merit-based solutions in our complex society.