What Does Open Source Mean?

What does open source mean in software development and related industries? Did you ever wish you could golf or bowl for free in exchange for helping to maintain the golf course or coaching other people at the bowling alley? For people who love to develop computer programs or work on group projects with a shared goal, open sourcing of software and related projects are a little bit like that.

Expert developers believe this approach can encompass many different types of projects or products that “celebrate principles of open exchange.” Open sourcing doesn’t mean “free,” it means that the product is developed collaboratively. Developers can license and charge for openly-developed software. Open sourced projects can be conducted in education, manufacturing, health, science and many other areas of work and life.

Does Open Sourcing Mean It’s Free of Charge?

Some people believe that because there are many free programs using open sourcing development methods, these are simply free, volunteer-made computer programs. This is a common misconception according to the OpenSource.com organization. Depending upon the license used by software creators, the way they can charge for the program varies. Open sourced developers can and do charge for their programs, and others offer the programs free, charging for services and support. Open sourcing means that the source code is developed collaboratively. Many people can work on open sourced code. Skill in improving this type of code is highly-valued in the software industry and it isn’t free of charge.

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Differences in Software Types

Proprietary software is the name for non-open-sourced software. This type of software is exclusively controlled by the person, organization or team which created it. Only the proprietors can modify or change proprietary software’s source code. Microsoft and Adobe create and sell proprietary software. If you buy and use this type of software, you will be asked to agree to license terms that mean you can’t modify or try to sell the software on your own. Reseller licenses permit people to resell proprietary software. In contrast, open sourced software like Libre Office and the GIMP image manipulation program, allow users to modify its code. These software products also include license terms, but these terms differ from proprietary software licenses.

Impacts of Open Sourcing

The prevalence of open sourcing in software and hardware development has led to increased dependence on the approach. Even if a person uses only proprietary software, the equipment they use to access the internet, make a phone call, or play a game uses openly-sourced software and related systems. The Linux operating system and Apache web server were both developed using open sourcing.

Some people prefer to use open sourced software over proprietary software for a variety of reasons. First, they have control over their own software. While many just wish to use a program, others do like to tailor a program to fit their needs. Still others prefer this type of software because it helps students become better computer programmers. Openly-developed software with open source code can also be more stable and secure than some types of proprietary software.

Asking “What is open source?” is just the first step in learning how to develop and implement software as part of a shared work project with many benefits.