What does open source mean?
Progressive digitization has ensured that virtually every company now uses countless different software products. Often, licenses have to be paid to the software manufacturer. However, there are also software applications that are referred to as open source - in other words, the software codes are freely available to every user. In the following guide, we explain what this means and whether open source is really free.
Open source: from community project to industry standard
Open source software has its origins in the early years of the Internet. Back in the 1990s, programmers, hackers and other interested parties joined together in various forums to create and develop better software projects. This development was driven by the fact that there were simply too few commercial software products to satisfy the various wishes and demands of users.
In the meantime, open source is much more than just a community project of people who share the same interests. Because open source software is now used by companies and software manufacturers of all sizes. But what exactly is open source software? Open source refers to software where the source code can be viewed, edited and redistributed by anyone.
The crucial thing here is that these software applications can still rely on a huge worldwide community that continuously develops and improves open source software. This makes open source software projects not only less expensive, but also more reliable and long-lasting than proprietary projects, since the program's further development does not depend on just one company.
Is open source software free?
Although the name and basic principles of open source suggest it, the use of such software is not necessarily free. To understand this, we should first take a closer look at the different types of software. First, there is Free Ware, which is software whose use is actually completely free, such as a free app on one's smartphone.
Then there's what's known as closed source software, which is the typical software product where the user can use the program for a fee, but can't view the underlying code, modify it, or pass it on.
And then there is the open source software. Characteristic of open source software is that the source code can be viewed, edited and forwarded (free of charge) by any user. However, this does not mean that the use of open source software is necessarily free.
Because Open Source means first only that the source code is freely available to each user. However, in order to turn these codes into executable software, one needs expertise, servers and, above all, time. If these things are not available to the user himself, then you need experts, who of course charge a fee for their services.
In fact, the biggest cost of open source applications is modifying the software for your own purposes. After all, if an open source product is a great basic framework for one's own company, but still needs to be tailored precisely to the company's particular requirements, then one must again hire experts to do this. In addition, many users of open source software invest in services such as security and maintenance for the open source program used.
Why open source has become the industry standard
Open source software is therefore not free in most cases. And yet this form of software development has become the absolute industry standard. Linux. Chrome, Android and virtually all major Big Data and cloud computing applications are based on open source. Of course, this is also due to the fact that open source is often nevertheless cheaper than closed source software. However, the true strengths of the open source principle lie elsewhere.
As already mentioned, users often commission programmers to tailor open source programs to their own needs. Fees are charged for this. The great thing about this, however, is that in most cases, depending on the respective open source license, these changes or improvements to the software must also be made available to the public again.
This means not only that an open source code remains free even after many years of further development, but also that you as a user never have to commit to a single developer. Because the code is available at any time free of charge, if one wants to move with the own programs.
In addition, open source applications are characterized by the fact that a huge community works around the clock to make the programs more efficient, safer and generally better - and absolutely free! This also makes open source applications much more durable than proprietary software, since the updates are developed by the community itself and are thus not subject to any restrictions imposed by software companies that want to phase out a program for strategic reasons.
Here again is an overview of the most important advantages:
● Free peer review
● Reliability and security
● Lower costs
● No vendor lock-in
In summary, then, open source is one of the most important foundations of our digital society and will therefore play an even more important role in the development and application of software in the future.