The open source definition is a term that refers to IT-inventions and products with their technology being free to alter, use and copy. The term is mostly used to describe open source software. However, it can also be used to describe open source hardware, the type of license and the type of distribution. The term was first used by Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens in 1988.
The source code of open-source programs is free to be viewed, studied and changed, that allows making sure that there are no vulnerabilities and functionality unacceptable for the user (for example, hidden tracking of the program user). It also provides users with an opportunity to take part in the revision of the open program itself, to use its code, to create new programs and fix errors in them by borrowing the source code, if the license compatibility allows it. The revision of open source programs can also be performed by examining the algorithms, data structures, technologies, techniques, and interfaces used (because the source code can significantly supplement the documentation, and in the absence of such documentation can act like one itself).
Open source projects provide many various types of software. Companies can develop open source video editors, open source games, open source databases, interactive maps, password managers and so on.
Famous open-source products are:
- Most of Linux-based operating systems (Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, etc.)
- The Firefox web browser
- The MySQL database solution
- The Python programming language
- The Moodle learning system
- Apache HTTP server
- The PHP web development tool
Open source advantages
Open source software has multiple significant advantages. First advantage comes from a consumer viewpoint, and is centered around the open source distribution policies. Due to the open source ideology, programs are free to use. Pretty often customers are able to choose free software as an alternative to a similar program with a commercial distribution model.
Second major advantage is in the fact that a large community of IT-advanced users is able to check and review any newly developed product before it becomes widely spread. The community can prevent open-source software from being issued with significant mistakes, backdoors or even deliberate fraudulent mechanisms. This is extremely important when talking about financial applications, maps, databases and password managers. The opportunity to learn the code before using an application makes the open-source technology very advantageous for privacy and security-concerned users.
Another significant benefit also comes from a fact that everyone can use open source code. Practically, it provides a project with an infinite number of probable active developers. Due to this fact, open source solutions are constantly improved and one well-made solution can become a starting point for a whole family of practical and secure products.
Open source disadvantages
It is often stated that the lack of user-friendliness is the main problem of open-source software. It is true that some of such solutions require additional time to be mastered than closed source (proprietary) software. Many of such projects don’t have their own support system and users have to rely on the assistance of the community.
Open source solutions are not provided with any type of warranty and no liability or infringement indemnity protection. In addition, the solutions are exposed for malware developers due to the source code being easy to access.
Some open source solutions are not compatible with proprietary hardware. It may lead to the inability of user to work with his/her software until the developers will provide specialized drivers.
Open Source Initiative
Open source ideas are promoted by the Open Source Initiative - the organization that was established to provide education and to protect open source projects. Open Source Initiative is a non-profit registered in Palo Alto, United States. The company was founded in 1988 and is actively participating in the community since then. It is a prominent education provider and conference organizer.
- OSS Watch: Examples of Open Source Software
- Open Source Initiative website
- Crunchbase: Open Source Initiative
- NIBUSINESS INFO: Open Source Business software
- Wikipedia - Open-source software