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5 Reasons Open Source Can Be A Better Choice For You

Date: 23 Feb 2023 | Author: Naim Zulkipli
5 Reasons Open Source Can Be A Better Choice For You

Open source software has become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, much of the technology we consume on a daily basis runs on open source (Jobanputra, 2023). The concept is simple: source code is freely available to anyone who wishes to modify or improve upon it. This means that the community can collaborate to create the best possible version of a software product. This is in contrast to proprietary software, which is owned by a company and only available to those who purchase a license.

The idea of open source software is not new. In fact, it can be traced back to the early days of computing. The Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman, and it was instrumental in promoting the idea of software freedom. In the years since, the open source movement has grown, and it now encompasses a wide range of software products. To learn more about the history of the development of open source, read “Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software” by Sam Williams. The book tells the story of Richard Stallman, his fight for free and open-source software, and his contributions to the development of the free software movement, including the GNU operating system and the creation of the Free Software Foundation.

In this article, we will explore 5 reasons why open source software can be better for you. These reasons range from the practical to the philosophical, and we believe that they provide a compelling case for why you should consider using open source software in your daily life. By the end of this article, we hope that you will have a better understanding of what open source software is and why it is an important part of the software ecosystem.

Reason #1: Flexibility

Open source software is widely known for its flexibility, which is one of the primary reasons why it is preferred over proprietary software. Flexibility refers to the ability to modify, customize, and extend software to meet specific needs. Open source software is designed to be highly customizable, giving users the freedom to modify it as they see fit. This means that users are not limited to the functionality provided by the software but can tailor it to their unique requirements.

The flexibility of open source software has several benefits. For one, it allows users to experiment with new features and functions that are not available in the original software. It also enables users to fix bugs and errors in the code, which can improve the software's overall performance. Another advantage of flexibility is that it allows users to create custom solutions that are specific to their needs, without having to rely on third-party vendors.

One of the best examples of open source software that offers flexibility is the Linux operating system. Linux is known for its highly customizable nature, which allows users to modify and extend it in countless ways. With Linux, users can create custom distributions that are optimized for specific tasks or hardware configurations. They can also modify the user interface, add or remove features, and fine-tune the system for maximum performance.

Other examples of open source software that offer flexibility include the Apache web server, the MySQL database management system, and the WordPress content management system. All of these software applications are highly customizable and can be extended in various ways to meet specific needs.

Reason #2: Cost-effective

One of the biggest advantages of open source software is its cost-effectiveness. Unlike proprietary software that requires a license fee, open source software is free to download, use, and distribute. This means that individuals and organizations can use open source software without any upfront costs or ongoing fees, making it an affordable alternative to proprietary software.

The cost-effectiveness of open source software provides several benefits. Firstly, it enables individuals and organizations to save money on software expenses, which can be redirected to other areas of their business or personal life. Secondly, it allows for greater access to technology, particularly in developing countries where proprietary software may be too expensive. Finally, the lack of licensing fees means that open source software can be easily shared and distributed, promoting collaboration and innovation.

What are some examples of open source software that are cost-effective? Well, there are several open source software options that are cost-effective, including:

  • LibreOffice, a free alternative to Microsoft Office that provides similar functionality for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • GIMP, a free and open source image editing program that is comparable to Adobe Photoshop
  • WordPress, a popular content management system that is free to use and provides a customizable platform for building websites
  • Ubuntu, a free and open source operating system that is a viable alternative to Windows or Mac OS
  • Blender, a free and open source 3D creation software that can be used for animations, visual effects, and video games

By using cost-effective open source software, individuals and organizations can benefit from the same features and functionalities as proprietary software without the associated costs.

Reason #3: Transparency

One of the key characteristics of open source software is transparency. Open source software is developed in a collaborative manner, with the source code open and available for anyone to view, modify, and redistribute. This transparency is essential for creating trust between the software developers and the users.

Transparency in open source software offers several benefits for end-users. One of the primary advantages is that it allows users to understand how the software works and what data it collects. This helps users make informed decisions about whether or not to use the software, and how to configure it to meet their needs.

Another benefit of transparency is that it makes it easier to identify and fix security vulnerabilities. With the source code open for inspection, any security issues can be identified and addressed quickly. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where security vulnerabilities may remain hidden for months or even years, putting users at risk. A recent example of how proprietary software hides issues is when Outlook users were suddenly flooded with spam, but the Microsoft team does not reveal (even a little) what the real problem was to the users (Mogg, 2023).

Transparency also promotes innovation and collaboration. With open access to the source code, developers can build upon existing software, creating new and innovative applications. This collaboration can lead to faster development, improved functionality, and a greater variety of software options for users.

Several examples of open source software demonstrate the benefits of transparency. The Mozilla Firefox web browser, for instance, is an open source browser that offers users complete control over their online experience. The browser is transparent in its operation and provides users with access to the source code, allowing them to modify and customize it to meet their needs.

Reason #4: Security

Open source software is often considered more secure than proprietary software due to its unique development model. In open source, the source code is available for anyone to inspect, test, and improve, creating a collaborative environment that can quickly identify and fix vulnerabilities. This collaborative effort often results in a more secure software ecosystem.

One of the key benefits of security in open source software is the ability to detect and fix vulnerabilities quickly. With the source code openly available, any developer can audit the code for potential security flaws, making it easier to identify and address issues. Additionally, the community can come together to share information and best practices for securing the software.

Examples of open source software that prioritize security include the Linux operating system, which is widely used in enterprise environments, as well as security-focused applications like GnuPG for encryption and OpenVPN for secure network connections. The Apache web server, which powers a significant portion of websites on the internet, is also an open source project that places a strong emphasis on security. In fact, Apache and Nginx (both open source web servers), is used by more than 66% of all websites (W3Techs); and, Unix-based operating systems (like Linux) powers more than 80% of all websites globally (W3Techs).

By using open source software, users can benefit from a more secure computing environment, with the knowledge that the software they are using has been thoroughly vetted by a community of developers. Open source also provides the added benefit of being transparent, allowing users to see exactly how the software operates and ensuring that it is free from backdoors or other malicious code.

Reason #5: Community support

Open source software development is typically supported by a community of volunteers who contribute their time, skills, and knowledge to the project. The community consists of developers, users, and other contributors who share a common interest in advancing the software. This collaborative effort is what makes open source software so unique and powerful. To further understand the sheer size of this collaboration, over 413 million contributions were made to open source projects on GitHub in 2022 alone, with more than 20 million people from around the world already on GitHub (Jobanputra, 2023). In comparison, Microsoft has a total number of only 221,000 employees.

One of the benefits of community support is that it helps to identify and fix bugs in the software more quickly. With many people working on the same codebase, bugs are often spotted and fixed faster than they would be in proprietary software. Additionally, the community can provide support and answer questions for new users, making it easier for people to get started with the software.

Another advantage of community support is the ability to influence the direction of the software. With an active community, users can suggest new features, offer feedback on existing features, and contribute code to the project. This means that open source software can evolve to better meet the needs of its users, rather than being beholden to the interests of a single company.

There is no doubt that open source software is becoming more popular by the day. In this article, we have explored five reasons why open source is better for you. We began by highlighting the flexibility of open source software, which allows users to modify the code to fit their specific needs. We also discussed the cost-effectiveness of open source software, which can be used for free, without the need for licensing fees.

We also explored the transparency of open source software, which allows users to see the code and ensure that no malicious activities are taking place. Furthermore, we discussed the security benefits of open source software, which is usually more secure than proprietary software due to the constant review of the code by a community of developers.

Lastly, we touched on the community support that comes with open source software. This support is usually in the form of forums, documentation, and contributions from other developers. It creates a community-driven culture that helps to improve the software over time.

If you haven't already, try out open source software and see how it can benefit you. For further reading about open source technology, we recommend “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” by Eric S. Raymond and “Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution” edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman, and Mark Stone.

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