The term “open source” is something available to the public that can be modified or shared by anybody. The term is usually used in reference to software development, in fact you have probably used open source software without ever being aware of it. Open source projects encourage collaboration and community development.
What is open source software?
When we talk about open source software, we mean that the source code (the programming most users never see) is able to be changed or modified by anyone with the skill to do so. Programmers with access to the source code can add or remove features or enhance it however they like.
What’s sets open source software apart?
Most software is proprietary and that means that the source code can only be modified the company or organization that created it. They retain exclusive control over their products and legally they are the only ones who can change it. Microsoft and Adobe with all the products they put out are two examples of proprietary software.
Open source software is different, the authors make the complete source code available, giving you the chance to copy the code, learn from it, and share it. WordPress is an example of this. Both products, proprietary and non have user agreement you must adhere to in order to use the software but the user agreement differ greatly. Open source licenses guarantee that if you modify the source code you to you cannot charge a licensing fee from it. The idea is to promote sharing and collaboration within the software industry.
Does this only benefit programmers?
Not at all. You have benefited from open source technology without even realizing it. Many of the sites you visit on the internet are hosted on servers using Apache Web server application and your Android phone is built using the Linux kernel. So you have been using open source technology all along.
Programmers do like open source software because it gives them more control, they can remove things they don’t like and add things that they want. Open source software is also a teaching tool, programmers can learn to write better code by seeing what others are doing. Work is shared allowing for critique and help when you need it. This leads to another advantage of open source software, mistakes are generally fixed quickly. You don’t need permission from the author to change the code so if you spot a bug…fix it.
Does open source mean the software is free?
Technically, no but….
A programmer can charge money for software they create, but open source licenses require you to release the source code so most find it far more lucrative to charge for service and support versus charging for the software.
That is open source in a nutshell. If you’re still a little confused by the idea, that’s okay. Here’s a video that breaks it down pretty simply…and they use lego. Cool, right?