What Open Source really means?


First thing first, I am not a specialist on the subject who can give an opinion. However, during some work, some questions struck me, so I thought why not to blog them. I think, there are some points that require some comprehensive discussion from different perspectives in the community, whenever open source is talked about.

So, what we actually mean, when we use the term “open source”. Is it…

  • a philosophy pitted against proprietary software?
  • another model of software development like waterfall etc.? or
  • just a piece of software of a specific functionality?

Importantly, what does it mean from an end-user’s point of view? How can it benefit them? Another perspective is from developer’s point of view and both are quite different from each other.

As a philosophy, open source often refers proprietary software as unethical, hence say completely no to them. I think this mindset has some political and social motivation. However, this is not the place to talk about these aspects. But, concepts like software evolution, no vendor lock-in, cost reduction etc. are worth to make a note, no doubt.

From a developer’s point of view, I think, open source can be regarded one another way for software development. Although, quite often, “open source” and “open source software” are used interchangibly. But, I think, they are quite different having certain meaning associated with each of them. “Open Source” stands for a certain way of software development. It offers a new methodology for developing software that is quite different form traditional way of development. Through community based collaborative development with consistent bug-tracking & fixing  and effective version control, a software evolves with time into a reliable and stable system of good quality. However, it requires some pre-existing piece of software, in whatever form. This gives us the notion a software requires to be developed in a closed group somewhere during its development cycle. So, can we say open source and closed source (so called properietary ones) complement each other? Don’t know. Possibly no specific answer for it.

On the other hand, whenever we refer the term “Open Source Software”, we are referring to a particular piece of software of a specific functionality whose source has been opened to the community to access, modify or redistribute it under some license (chosen from a long list otherwise a new one recognized by OSI/FSF). Another commonly used term is “Free Software” which is often used by FSF.

I think, for a end-user, it doesn’t matter whether a software is open source or proprietary one as long as it serves his/her purpose, performs stably, and  is available on some reasonable cost, if not free (of cost).

So, these are my thoughts. If something to comment, go for it.

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