What is open source?

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I keep hearing the term ‘open source’ – what does it mean?

Open source is software for which the complete source code has been made freely available. This source code may also be redistributed and modified by its users. The terms of use are often defined by the General Public Licence, which serves as the Software Licence Agreement (SLA) for many open source programs.
In contrast, proprietary software or closed source software is software that you pay a one-time or annual license for. Some examples are Windows OS, MS Office, and Adobe Photoshop.
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But, why?

  • Open collaboration – Programmers who have access to a computer program source code can improve a program by adding features to it or fixing parts that don’t always work correctly. Generally programmers can’t charge money for the open source software they create or to which they contribute.
  • Service-based chargeback model – Many open source software programmers find that charging users money for software services and support rather than for the software itself is more profitable. This way, their software remains free of charge and they make money by helping others to install, use and troubleshoot it.
  • Control over source code and ability to modify for own purposes – Many people prefer open source software because they are interested in more control over these kinds of software. They can examine the code to make sure it’s not doing anything they don’t want it to do, and they can only change parts of it they don’t like to do.
  • Freely available with a large audience reach – Generic users who aren’t programmers also took benefit from open source software, because they can use this kind of software for any purpose without any prior notice to the proprietor as they wish—not merely the way someone else thinks they should.

Examples of Open Source software

Below is a partial list of the best-known open source software. While there are many more, this list is only

Operating Systems

Possibly one of the most famous open source systems is the Linus operating system. Beloved by a large section of the IT community, Linux has contributed to the growth and development of the information age.

Programming languages:

  • C and C++
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Perl
  • Ruby


  • MySQL


  • Apache Web server

Digital Content:

  • Wikipedia
  • Gutenberg Project

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  1. Well written. One of the more important advantages of open source is that it’s more secure than proprietary software. This is because there’s a large, engaged community that is quick to identify security issues and find fixes.
    Also important, almost every proprietary software has an open source equivalent at this point.


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