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The phrase "open source" has been a buzzword floating around in the tech world since the concept first came into being and has become a part of the everyday vernacular for techies and non-techies alike. While terms like "open-source software" are often used with broad strokes to loosely define all manner of applications, there is a strict definition of what makes any software or operating system truly open-source. In this quick blog post, we will be discussing this topic and how the open-source movement is taking the world by storm and revolutionizing the industry.
In simple terms, open-source software is software that can be used, changed, or shared by anyone for free. It can be modified to your specifications or used as is. Typically, open-source software is worked upon - and improved - by a community of like-minded developers with the goal of providing applications and operating systems that are an alternative to the ones offered by big tech companies such as Microsoft.
While open-source software may be free to use and distribute, open-source developers and companies can still make a profit through a number of ways. One method is by providing support or training for the software. Other methods involve adding advertisements or requesting donations to keep a particular project running.
There is some debate in the tech community about the real purpose of the open-source movement, and indeed, there is even a divide between the open-source community and the "free software" community, which has a movement all its own.
Popular open-source software includes programs such as the photo manipulation application Gimp, Mozilla's Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client, and operating systems like Linux and Ubuntu.
While open-source does have its flaws, it continues to gain ground as corporations look for cheaper, more innovative solutions than they can find in traditional closed-source software. In fact, in a recent survey by Black Duck Software, 56 percent of corporations stated that they anticipated contributing more to open-source projects.
The reason for this continued growth, and indeed, the reason many believe open-source will revolutionize the tech industry of tomorrow is due, in part, to the fewer constraints developers have when creating and modifying open source software (OSS). Resources in an OSS community are not limited to strict budgeting policies, and the number of developers is not dependent upon how many in-house programmers a company has access to. Because of this, in some ways, open-source is limitless in its potential.
Those same benefits, of course, can cause their own set of problems, but on the whole, the model makes perfect sense. A great example of open-source gone right is the open-source programming language Python. In addition to the core language being developed by a large community, offshoots have created libraries of code that can be used to extend the functionality and capability of the language as well - something closed-source programming languages may not have the benefit of.
Another reason the open-source movement will likely be the wave of the future is innovation. While typical software developers have a few key deciding members in terms of the direction and focus a particular application or software should have, open-source initiatives rely on community feedback and input to drive the direction of their technology, allowing for a broad range of diversity and expertise when it comes to planning and development.
While open-source itself will definitely continue to thrive and likely dominate the future, it will certainly be interesting to see how old hats such as Ubuntu and Linux fare in the struggle for market dominance in the IT sector. One thing is for certain: When it comes to open source, the sky is the limit.