What's Open-Source Software and What Advantages It Has?

5 min read

OSS is a free-to-use program provided by organizations and companies that don’t mind other people and businesses using or customizing their products for their own needs. The following treats characterize open-source software: it’s free of cost, has open code, and doesn’t have a strictly determined purpose. It’s software that can be used, developed, and customized for some particular needs by any willing individual, as well as by a large-scale company.

How Does It Work?

Initially, a company downloads the needed OSS, which should become a part of its IT system. Then it hires or involves staff engineering specialists to adapt this software to personal needs. In that case, a business doesn’t need to make monthly/annual payments, buy licenses, digital keys, etc. But on the other hand, it will face full responsibility for using such personalized open-source software.

However, the game is worth the candle. According to statistics, businesses worldwide save up to 70 billion dollars annually by using OSS. The work of the IT department that lies in adaptation and maintenance of integrated software is the only substantial cost a company should cover. Since most businesses have their own IT departments and don’t need to engage external specialists, the integration and subsequent use of customized open-source software save a tremendous amount of funds.

It is not surprising that more than three-quarters of businesses worldwide are entirely or partially run on open-source software. This quantity has doubled since 2010 and seems to rise further. OSS’s multiple powerful benefits draw the vast majority of companies on its side.

The most renowned open-source software products are WordPress, Mozilla Firefox, and Linux. They are familiar to mass users and are great examples of how a piece of open-source code could become:

  1. WordPress deservedly earns the trust of millions of users and websites’ architects. It’s a website constructor, which open-source code allows to build, customize and vary a website’s structure on a case-by-case basis.

  2. Mozilla Firefox browser is used by nearly a quarter of Internet users. Its flexible environment contains all typical treats OSS has, making this browser a good choice for website developers. But in recent years, another open-source browser – Google Chrome – took lead positions, having enough workforce and resources to overrun older analogs, to which Mozilla Firefox relates.

  3. Linux is another prime example. It is an operating system, once tremendously popular among desktop users. But now it is in a state of comatose, although it gave life to such titanic projects as Android, MeeGo, and others. Most mobile devices, tablet computers, network hard drives, and modems still operate on Linux OS.

Key Differences Between Open-Source and Closed-Source Software

Closed source software (CSS) is a private property of its developer that cannot be used without special licenses or keys. And these are vital differences between OSS and CSS:

  1. Usually, such programs cannot be modified, customized, or somehow adapted to the needs of an individual consumer;

  2. OSS doesn’t need regular updates since the consumer himself develops and updates it. Thereby, CSS is being updated only by the provider;

  3. It depends only on the provider how good, transparent, secure, and reliable CSS is. In the meantime, its opposite has no apparent borders in terms of the mentioned above characteristics. The end consumer can freely extend its functionality, structure, security measures, and other important parts of the code;

  4. The most striking difference is that CSS costs money. Typically, OSS is free and rarely implies any charges.

Advantages and Drawbacks of the Use of Open-Source Software

Open-source software dominates in the modern IT environment, bypassing closed source products. It has a number of serious advantages which can explain such popularity:

  1. Free of use. It is much more convenient to use software, not owning anything to anybody, or being dependent on the provider who can change the price, terms of use, and other buyer-seller relationships. Licenses, digital keys, regular updates, and privacy policy of paid programs could become a real headache for the end consumer, whether it is an individual or a big enterprise;

  2. Security. OSS doesn’t imply the presence of “Big Brother,” who watches every step and examines every sent message. It is not a secret that big corporations maintain constant surveillance of customers. Spying pieces of code are often already integrated into the product. But those code parts could be deleted from the program developed on the OSS’s basis. It is transparent and explored by numerous programming specialists, leaving no room for bugs or code errors;

  3. Suitability. OSS could be adapted, developed, and customized for the special needs of a non-profit organization, commercial company, governmental unit, or individual user. Original open code can be transformed into a unique product with its own features, digital infrastructure, and functionality.

  4. Constant Development. While programmers work on a piece of open code, they share their experience and knowledge among a whole programming community, each of which participants contribute too. As a result, we have software that was improved, fixed, checked for security issues, and examined multiple times.

  5. Outstanding Lifetime. Such products have an incredibly long lifetime because there are no owners or providers in a shared sense of the term. OSS cannot be scrubbed from the Network since it is usually shared on public domains and IT platforms.

But there is always a dark side. The use of OSS implies several drawbacks, which should be well-understood and noted:

  1. Full Responsibility and Self-Reliance. There is no provider of OSS or system updates that will keep your IT environment on a decent level. A company becomes responsible for continuous development and efficiency if it integrates OSS. The main problem is that there'll be no one who could give prompt support if something goes wrong.

  2. Coarse Nature. Open-source code software is not a commercial product in the ordinary sense. It isn't meant to be user-friendly, easily perceived, or intuitively managed. It is a raw product that needs to be polished and smoothed before a regular person could freely experience its functionality.

  3. Long-Term Benefits. It takes a lot of time to unleash its potential. A company can purchase a ready-to-use product with 24/7 support and monthly updates, but sometimes it chooses to develop or adapt the existing OSS. Such choice often means only long-term benefits.

The most important part of OSS, source code, could be re-written, customized, or developed by a separate programmer or by an engineering team to meet the needs of a single user or a company. OSS is free for anyone wishing to use it. A once raw version of some open-source software can become an integral part of the organization’s system, fitting its particular needs and interests better than “commercial,” closed source analogs.

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