What Does ‘Open Source’ Mean? Here’s What To Know About OSS

What Does 'Open Source' Mean?

Open source is a broad term that means publicly accessible. In a general sense, it could include lots of things like open source products, projects, websites, etc. But, in reality, open source refers to some different things.  Open source represents open source software (OSS) actually. Anyone can view, modify, and enhance OSS for individual and organizational purposes.

Below, we’ll discuss how open source software works, examples, and its pros and cons. Let’s start with what open-source software means.

What Is Open Source Software?

Open source software (OSS) is a special type of software that allows accessing its source code. Not only that, but you can also edit and develop the OSS. So, it differs from traditional proprietary software.

In closed proprietary software, the source code is kept secret and only the developers can access it. But OSS makes the source code accessible to any programmers. One important thing to mention here is that open source software can be either free or you may pay for it.

What Are Open Source Software Examples?

There are lots of open source software. It includes browsers, OS and utilities, programming, CMS, design software, etc.

Some of the common OSS are-

  • Python
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • OpenOffice
  • Linux/GNU
  • jQuery
  • Zimbra
  • GIMP
  • VNC
  • Apache web server
  • VLC media player
  • Asterix
  • SugarCRM
  • LibreOffice

How Does An Open Source Software Development Model Work?

Usually, OSS works in a collaborative way where anyone from the developers’ community around the world can contribute. This makes the software more reliable, secure, and rich in features compared to proprietary software, due to the contributions of many expert programmers.

Developers or programmers around the world can contribute to the project of the OSS by doing changes to the source code, fixing bugs, and adding new features there. There is also a core group of maintainers who oversee the project as well as approve or decline if someone edits any code.

The source code of the OSS is available to the public, but there are some terms and conditions for using and modifying the software. Whoever agrees with the terms and conditions can get the license to use, modify, and enhance the software.

Open Source Software Licenses

There are many open source licenses available. Before using any OSS, you should know about its license to be sure it meets your standard or not. Open source initiative (OSI) listed numerous OSS licenses.

Some of the popular OSS licenses include-

  • Apache License 2.0
  • MIT License
  • Mozilla Public License 2.0
  • BSD License 2.0 (3-clause, new or revised)
  • GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.0
  • GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.0

Advantages Of Open Source Software

What is Open Source Software

There are lots of advantages of open source software. Here are some of the key advantages of open-source software.

Free Or Low Cost

Most open source software is often free to use, modify, and distribute. So, individuals and organizations with limited budgets will find OSS handy to use without incurring high costs. But some software may ask you to pay a small amount of money.

Better Security And More Reliable

In general, OSS offers better security than proprietary software. As the source code is open thus developers around the world can edit and fix bugs there instantly. In this way, if there are any bugs or issues that are addressed and fixed quickly. It reduces the risk of malicious attacks profoundly and makes it more reliable.

Flexibility And Customization

As the source code is accessible to developers in OSS thus anyone can modify the software to meet their individual or organizational needs.

Increased Collaboration

The open source model encourages collaboration between developers around the world. So, anyone can contribute to the project and share their knowledge and expertise.

Effective Tool For Learning

OSS is a good tool for learners who want to become programmers. As they can discover programming languages and they work in real life. Moreover, they may practice and submit their work and get feedback from experts that help to improve their skills.

Disadvantages Of Open Source Software

Besides many advantages, OSS has some disadvantages too. Some of them are discussed below-

Lack Of Support

As open source software is developed by a community of volunteers, you might experience a lack of support if any issues arise or need assistance.

Compatibility issues

Sometimes OSS might be incompatible with proprietary software or other systems. This could be challenging for organizations or individuals that need to integrate multiple software solutions.


As the source code is available, thus OSS seems more complex sometimes than proprietary software, especially for non-technical users.


The community of the open source can be divided, with multiple competing projects working on similar software solutions. This will confuse the users and can be challenging for developers to coordinate their efforts.


Open source software brings revolutionary changes in the software industry due to the contributions of thousands of developers. OSS is beneficial both for developers and users and has led to the creation of some of the most widely used software products in the world.  There are also website platforms that use the concept of open source, such as WordPress, but the platform itself is a Contact Management System.

You may not be a website developer or have any knowledge of how to write source code, but it takes little expertise to be a content contributor. The same is true of Wikipedia.  It’s is an open source encyclopedia that anyone can add information to edit exisiting pages.

As the open source movement continues to grow, it is likely to play a vital role in the development of new and innovative software solutions.

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