Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in. For a full overview of the Open Source Initiative please visit: www.opensource.org
What is Open Source Software?
Open Source software, sometimes referred to as OSS, is computer software that is available in source code form and conforms to certain distribution terms established by The Open Source Initiative (OSI), a non-profit corporation. According to the OSI, “Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.”
Typically, OSS is developed in a collaborative manner, often by people located all over the world. Each person can view the contributions of others and add their efforts as well.
The criteria for determining whether distribution terms comply with the requirements for OSS are:
- Source Code – The software program has to include the source code and permit distribution in source code and compiled form.
- Free Redistribution—Developers cannot place any limitations on redistribution of OSS. This means allowing people to modify, improve and distribute the software.
- Integrity of The Author’s Source Code – The OSS license is required to allow distribution of software designed based on modified source code.
- Derived Works – The license permits modifications and derived works. It also permits derived works to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
- No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups – The license is not allowed to be used to discriminate against any individual or group of people.
- Distribution of License – The license is granted to everyone whom the software is distributed to with no restrictions.
- No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor – Specific fields of endeavor cannot be restricted from using the software. For example, the license cannot restrict the software from being used for-profit, or for medical research.
- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product – Each individual or group to whom the software is redistributed has the same rights as those granted with the original program distribution. In other words, the rights attached to the program cannot depend on the software’s being included with a particular software distribution.
- License Must Not Restrict Other Software – OSS is not allowed to put limitations on other software distributed along with the licensed software.
- License Must Be Technology-Neutral – No portion of the license can be predicated on any particular technology or style of interface.
Open Source Software Community
Often the open source community rallies around problems in mainstream software to develop improved versions. There are many instances of such software developed under the Open Source license. For example, Gimp is an image editor that is a popular alternative to Photoshop. OpenOffice is an office suite that is comparable to MS Office. Linux, Android, and Mozilla Firefox are other popular examples of OSS.
Examples of Free Open Source Software
Some OSS —like Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and Magento—are even used in web design and development. Many web designers and web developers are turning to Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS) to get the job done. Many developers feel Drupal is one of the more functional open source CMS available.
Drupal lets users edit content right on the page and user contributed modules let you expand functionality. WordPress began as a solution for bloggers but has quickly become known as one of the most user friendly CMS on the market. Many online stores use Magneto as their e-commerce content management system. Many people and businesses use Joomla! to build websites and web-enabled apps.