What is OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE?
Open source software (i.e. OSS) is, most basically, a kind of software which is created and maintained based on open collaboration. Typically, it is made available to the masses at free of charge. Most importantly, however, it is made available for ANYONE to use, examine, apply changes and redistribute in whatever manner is most suitable for them. Unlike is the case with closed source software (encyclopedia.kaspersky.com/glossary/closed-source/) like, for instance, Microsoft Word.
Briefly on the history of OSS
Historically, sharing code was common practice until the middle of 1970s as computer code itself was not considered intellectual property, hence, subject to copyright protection. In 1974, though, The Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU) was brought to life and computer code was categorised as creative work which made it subject to copyright protection.
In 1983, software creators as well as users started defying the concept of proprietary software. As it transpired, the problem with closed source software was that users were unable to customise it to their very individual needs.
Programmer Richard Stallman started the Free Software Foundation. This gave a kick-start to the development of some open source alternatives to a number of closed source programs. He is also the father of the GNU General Public License (GPL) (suse.com/suse-defines/definition/gnu-general-public-license-gpl/). Based on it, whoever enhanced his source code was then required to make their edited version available for free of charge to everyone.
The very term “open source” had not been adopted till 1999, however. The Open Source Initiative (opensource.org/) was created to promote the idea and create rules for the industry through coining a definition for open source as well as hosts compliant open source licences.
Currently, terms such as free software, open source software (OSS), free and open source software (FOSS) as well as free/libre-open source software (FLOSS) all refer to software with source code available for public use and customisation.
OSS in personal use and business
Nowadays, OSS is one of the pivots of computing. This is due to the fact that open source technologies are the basis for the Internet, business computing and personal computing.
Currently, it would be quite a challenge to find any computing devices which do not contain source codes, as source codes are frequently used by software developers to perform both fundamental operations and more advanced functions. Most of us are familiar with names such as Linux OS (alternative to Unix), Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice (alternative to Microsoft Office) or GIMP (alternative to Adobe Photoshop). All of them are open source software applications.
Year by year, OSS is also gaining momentum in network, business and cloud computing. IT professionals enumerate programming languages and frameworks, databases and data technologies, operating systems, git-based public repositories, frameworks for Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning as most commonly used in their organisations.
Reasons for choosing OSS vary widely. End users most frequently choose an open source app for its functionality and do not want to rewrite and redistribute it. Businesses, in contrast, often choose open source software for economic reasons (low or no cost), the possibility to customise it and/or the existence of a community supporting it. Finally software developers, not infrequently, offer their skills to broaden their portfolio.
OSS in 2022
2022 was a fantastic year for open source software. OSS is, indeed, doing very well not only with individual users but also with businesses and organisations. It continues to thrive, with an increasing number of people adopting open source technologies for cloud-native development, DevOps, AI and what not. Reportedly, OSS use has increased by up to 80% over 2022.
Click the link below to read Perforce’s (perforce.com/) “The State of Open Source Report: Open Usage, Market Trends, and Analysis” report.
If, by any chance, you are also considering applying open source solutions in your organisation, it is, most certainly, some serious food for thought.