In 1998, a new software development came to be. This is the Open Source Software (OSS) or “free software”. Although this is not literally for free, a program that is open-source has its source course available for other users to use, modify, code and then distribute their own versions to other users. Moreover, virtually anyone can use the program for whatever purpose they seem fit and there are no licensing fees as well as restrictions.
What Is a Source Code?
A source code is used by computer programmers to enhance or modify software applications or programs to change the way they work. They also use these codes to fix errors in the software. Regular or ordinary computer users do not see the source codes in software.
The open source software community have increased over the years and today, it open source has become a multi-billion dollar industry considered by its supporters and critics to have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the benefits and setbacks of this controversial movement.
List of Pros of Open Source Software
1. Good for Businesses.
Software experts who are supporters of open source software posit that businesses and non-profit organizations as well as the federal government are already adopting the application of OSS for a variety of purposes. These institutions are already accepting the concept of this movement and its relevance to developing quality software. This has helped businesses to build reputation and take advantage of this technology. Today, content management systems such as Joomla, WordPress and Plone are being used by organizations. From open source software, better versions can be created, which can be used by industries.
2. Easy to Download.
Supporters of open source software say that it has helped users to have access to software from the internet without really having to pay for it. Take for example the free software for downloading music. With it, songs can be downloaded without having to go to iTunes and pay for music downloads. Moreover, today, installing an operating system is possible without having to pay for licensed software. Ubuntu OS is available for download and can be a substitute for Windows. Although this needs some technical skills, this can still be a big savings for the average computer user who does not have the money to buy propriety software.
3. Innovation Central.
With the freedom to modify and edit an open source code, users are now not restricted to do so with the type of licensing for OSS. Closed-code software like Google Docs does not allow people to do that. The open license of OSS allows people to make better versions of an application and share it with others, who in return, can also modify and improve. In the end, the software community can benefit from this movement.
Advocates for open source software claim that this movement has allowed individuals to learn and enhance their computer programming skills. Those who are starting to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and web programming can use these open source codes to learn more about programming. In fact a lot of companies have their in-house web developers copy and modify source codes from the free blogsite themes of WordPress to get ideas for client websites. By adding to the codes and modifying them, new website designs are easier to create.
List of Cons of Open Source Software
1. Not Really Free.
Critics of the open source software and its concept posit that it only gives one the freedom to modify it but in reality, it is not totally free. Considering the budget of creating open source software, which is relatively cheaper than what is spent to come up with propriety software, it is far more inferior than commercial software. Having said that, there is not much effort and detail given to its documentation, usability and more importantly, its development. Consequently, a person who will use it needs to invest longer time and effort for its installation and improvement.
2. No Guaranteed Support.
Proponents of OSS point out the lack of technical support. Take the case of open source testing tools. Although there are several open source communities willing to respond to inquiries and add new features more often than some vendors do, this does not guarantee that users can expect these OSS communities to be as supportive and friendly at all times. This is simply because they are not getting monetary compensation from doing so. In case users expect some features to be added, they have to wait for open source communities to come up with these features with no guaranteed time frame. It is true that open source software has some support available, not all applications have complete support and unfortunately, it is possible that some developers will not support these applications.
3. Not Profitable.
People who are not really fans of the open source software movement stress that if a user will use it to come up with a version and make money out of it, this is hardly possible, to say the least. This is because the license itself allows anyone to copy, modify and distribute it, making it easy for others to have their own versions and need not pay the developer.
4. Has Flaws.
Critics of OSS say that although some initiatives have been successful and still continue to thrive, there are those that have failed like Eazel and SourceXchange. For unconvinced experts, OSS does not have what it takes to produce quality systems, identify the vague process, does not have empirical evidence and in some cases, takes time to identify defects. It also can give hackers the opportunity to study the weaknesses of the software easily. Given these factors, they doubt the benefits of OSS.
Since the birth of the open source software movement, many users have reaped its rewards but according to those who are skeptical about it, OSS is not fool-proof. But come to think of it, it has been more of an advantage than a setback. Moreover, it is only an option since commercial and closed source software are still available for users.