“75% of companies run open source” – Future of Open Source Survey
The internet has empowered more than 100 million users worldwide and now become a big platform for open-source software development.
If you would ask the definition of open source software, you will get the answer that its source code is available and free to edit but, OSS (open source software) is beyond than this definition. It gives you a free hand to study the source code of the software, fix the bugs and modify and release the updated version with the community.
First a Brief History
In the mid 90’s when the communal culture of software development starts evolving it linked several universities and research laboratories. But, the network could connect only 250 hosts and find difficulties catering to the growing communication needs.
This communal culture was presented at MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratories, but unfortunately, this culture received a major jolt when MIT restricted the access of the software code.
This move deeply hurt Richard Stallman who was a programmer at AI Laboratory and in 1985 he founded the ‘Free Software Foundation’ successfully. The idea was to make the code available for programmers by using their own copyrights to grant software licenses to the future users. The license was called ‘General Public License (GPL)’. It allows the programmers to download and modify the source code free of cost and but on condition that the software should remain under the original license.
In 1998 Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond modified the idea and initiated ‘open source software movement’ with the idea of the free distribution of software which means anyone is free to modify and redistribute the software.
A Great Example
Procter and Gamble launched a program “Connect and Develop” whose motive is to acquire products from other companies and bring on board as P&G brands. It helps them to seek external ideas and technologies through the openness of the platform. GitHub is another big name for open source software.
OSS can benefit your business in several ways, save your time and money and many experts can contribute to perfect or enhance your business software. Let’s delve into the myriad advantages open source software brings for businesses.
Benefits of Open Source Software
1. Promote Innovation: If you compare the birth of technology with the modern world today, you will notice a mammoth transformation in between. Keeping in mind the evolution of the internet and mobile phones we cannot in any way deny the power of innovation. Open source software provides a platform where a novice or an experienced developer all can contribute regardless of their age and experience. It promotes learning, garners productivity and contributes to the positive growth of the software voluntarily. This culture of caring and sharing rewards you more than money. You can work freely on OSS and harness the opportunity to analyze source codes especially for big names like Mozilla Firefox, Apache HTTP web server and more.
2. Brings Reliability: The efficiency of the software to serve its required specifications defines the reliability of the software. It consists of three major factors; fault detection, fault prevention and improvement of the software to maximize reliability. In an open-source platform, software is being watched and monitored by thousands of experts or even pioneers of the field who can fix the faults without taking much time. This increases reliability and enables the smooth running of the software without interruption.
3. Bugs Removal and Tracking: “With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” ~Raymond
It means the more number of people involved in the development of the software; the less are the chances of bugs and faults in the software. In an OSS bugs are fixed quickly within the number of hours it is detected because the source code is crystal clear to everyone. They can not only fix but also can also report to the maintainers of the software or share the updated version themselves.
4. Fosters Learning: The benefit of the collective contribution is that it advance your learning and instill growth. In an open source environment people gives direct support, and feedback on codes written by other members. This peer-review process is valuable for those who are willing to learn and prosper in the field. Not only this, the open source community provides substantial support to users in the form of blogs, tutorials, live chats and forum discussions.
The openness of the environment is not only good for learning but it also develops the culture of helping, sharing and caring. You can gain knowledge of experts for free and also you can give back to the community by sharing the knowledge you have. But, with pros comes the cons! The community which invites programmers from all over the world have some disadvantages on the other hand. Let’s explore what are they!
Disadvantages of OSS
5. Can be Risky: Releasing your source code openly and making it accessible to everyone can invite the vulnerability in the software. Not all the members come with the mindset to benefit the software, some may intend to harm the software with identity theft, virus transfers, and other malicious practices
6. It’s not User – Friendly: There exists some open source software that simplifies huge problems be it computational or technical, but their Graphical User Interface (GUI) isn’t pretty much easy. If you are willing to work on them you need to spend an ample time learning their software.
7. Less Personalized Support: In OSS everyone can freely edit or upgrade the software according to their level of understanding. But since the work is volunteered they don’t provide the documentation of the code so the members may have difficulty in understanding the code.
8. You need to pay sometimes: An open source software is free at first but it can later costs money if you face issues in implementing the software. The request to third-party support or applications to set up or the maintenance of the software may charge you additionally.
OSS for Business
With OSS you don’t have to wait long for the bugs to be fixed like in proprietary software. The bugs can be resolved immediately which keeps your business running smoothly. It is open to innovation and invites businesses to collaborate on shared needs which cannot be achieved alone.
Do you think open source software has helped your business? If so, in what way?
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