What is open source software?
Open Source Software, or OSS, is any software that is released with its source code, and the right to modify and continue to develop the software independent of the original publisher. The GNU General Public License, or GPL, is a popular license used to set the specific terms for release of OSS.
The GNU GPL is a set of rules that software developers can choose to subscribe to by releasing their software under the GPL. The GPL runs on the foundation of software â€˜freedomâ€™. Basically, if a program is distributed under GPL, the license guarantees the end user the right to have the source code for the program, and to modify it as the end user sees fit. A fee can still be charged for the software, but the source code must be included.
What about money? And don’t you get what you pay for?
Open Source Software can generate profit for software developers in a number of ways. Many companies will sell support contracts, offering a level of service and support for the software. These can be a valuable revenue stream. Additionally, software publishers may offer commercial, or enterprise versions of their software for a cost.
In some cases, there can be significant differences in quality between open source and commercial software programs. There are many reasons, however, why open source applications can rival or exceed the functionality of commercial versions. For one, open source software can be developed, enhanced and improved by anyone with the knowledge to do so. Commercial applications, on the other hand, are maintained only by the programmers at the software developer who have access to the source code and have been assigned to work on the particular project.
What are some open source software examples?
Examples of powerful, feature packed open source application suites are plentiful on the internet. For example, GIMP provides many of the same features as Adobe Photoshop, but for a savings of $400 or more. Open Office provides the same features as Microsoft Office for savings of hundreds, as well. When a company compares these costs, per license, for a large scale deployment, the savings can add up exponentially. It may be true that in some cases a commercial software platform can provide a niche feature that isnâ€™t matched in an open source package, but in most cases open source applications can accomplish the same tasks effectively.
Open source software drives the innovation of computers and the internet. It is safe to say that technology would not be where it is today, without the dedicated individuals who have devoted their time and resources to developing open source software. There is a passion that drives the development, and neither that passion, nor the need for free or lower cost solutions will disappear any time soon. Therefore, it is safe to say that the future of open source software is bright.