What is Open Source Software?

We like using programs, especially when they are free. Programs are nice, free programs are even better. What is also better is a program that is free and we know isn’t malicious, because we can view its source code and confirm it for ourselves. Well, we could if we knew what the code means, but other people can review it and confirm it for us, which is more than good enough for the vast majority of people.

Open source software is really cool and the way we should be designing software and approaching software and industries as a whole. 

But, we should stop and explain what open source is, why it is so cool and what open source means for everyone.

Open Source – Beginnings of the Initiative

It was 1998, February. Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond decided to do something unheard of. They published the source code for Nescape’s flagship browser, the Netscape Communicator. 

In August of 1998, they started the Open Source Initiative, an initiative to make software open to the world, so that people can view the source code, change it, reuse it and adapt it as they see fit.

They also published the Open Source Definition, to help people understand licenses, to determine whether a certain license can be used to label a piece of software as open source. They adapted these definitions from the Debian Free Software Guidelines, Debian being one of the original Linux distributions, the one Ubuntu, Mint and other Debian forks are based on.

Why Open Source?

Because open source implies transparency. Everyone can view your code, which is the beauty of open source. Anyone can also change the code and add to it, if it improves the code. They can also take the code and change it for their own personal needs. Malignant code updates will not be possible, because open source projects are always reviewed by more than one person, and bad code rarely if ever gets added to a project.

Open source also means downloading and using the software for free, but not also that, but also distributing the software for free, changed or in its original shape, if you so desire. The only thing you can’t do is sell it, because it is free to begin with.

Why Is It Good For Us?

Open source is great for us for a couple of reasons, firstly, security. Open source software is secure because it is built by the public for the public, and not by corporations for their own benefit.

The main problem with closed source programs is that you have no clue what a program is doing unless you catch it in the act one way or another and by that time, it might be late.

Open source programs also help combat monopolies or duopolies. Adobe almost had a monopoly on image manipulation software and video editors, until other programs came through, like Blender and GIMP. 

Free and open source software is the best kind, though it requires more support from the fans, typically financial, because the developers do this for free.

This was a brief explanation of what open source software is and why it is good for us. Look it up and download a couple open source programs even though you probably already have, without knowing it.

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