What are the Benefits of Open Source Software?
Open source software is software which has its source code freely available for use, study, and modification. Open source projects are very community driven and usually go through rigorous peer reviewing to ensure that they work correctly prior to wide release. There are, in many cases, open source versions of most major software suites available. Community driven projects have led to the solutions to problems that most commercial businesses would not want or need to solve such as the functionality of older hardware or certain developmental suites for software. The benefits of using open source software are nearly endless, but they can be lumped into a few broad categories.
The Benefits List
Peer-Review: Open source software is, inherently, open. Since anyone can review the source code and modify it problems are found very quickly and reports and reviews can make them known. The community is very good about alerting users to these issues and is also very good about solving them. The peer review system that exists within the open source community also helps with other issues such as security.
Security: As mentioned before, the fact that the source code is available for anyone to view has a number of benefits in terms of security. Commercial programs can often contain sections of code meant to record information about use and report back to the company. In some cases, they may even include more malicious software such as key-logging software, viruses, trojans, or backdoors for interlopers to hijack the users computer. Having source code that anyone can view makes these types of security issues virtually non-existent. They would be found and everyone would be alerted to their presence almost immediately.
Cost: There is no cost. This is one of the largest benefits of open source software. It is high quality, free, and there is a level of freedom associated with its use. Particularly the freedom from commercial interests. Open source software is not about selling anything to anyone and, thus, it is free of adds or features that may be unlocked with a cost. The lack of cost makes open source software a perfect solution for students or underprivileged individuals (among many others) who may not have the money to afford enterprise software.
Choice: Choice is another major benefit to the use of open source software. It exists as an alternative to paid software. Even among open source programs there are many choices that an individual can make. Certain programs will have more to offer than others and there are a variety of choices for every type of program. Further, there are usually many reviews available from other users for each software program in order to make choosing even easier.
Flexibility: Open source software is freely available for modification. It is not tied down to a single company or a single individual for development. This allows a lot of outside of the box thinking and can eliminate problems that are often associated with the development of proprietary software. The use of the software can be further modified by the end user in order to suit their own individual needs. The adaptability of open source software is one of the hallmarks that puts it in a different category then most enterprise software. It is not beholden to commercial interests or other issues that come with for-profit software programs.
Open source software and the communities that create it provide an invaluable service to the world as a whole. The Internet, in particular, runs on primarily open source solutions such as HTML. Entire operating systems have been developed based on the principles of open source (Linux in particular). Content management systems such as WordPress have led to an explosion of web development. Security and hardware compatibility issues have been solved through collaborative efforts. Modification of source code can allow unparalleled customization possibilities to programs. Open source software fills a gap and provides a valuable resource for everyone who uses a computer.
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )