We have talked about Open Source a few times, but we have never defined it.  What is it, and why should it matter to you?

The Open Source Initative defines it as:

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.

Essentially it means that anyone can download the source code for a program, play with it as they like, and submit their changes for future inclusion in the program, or even start their own separate offshoot of the product.  As an example, Flock, a fairly new browser, is built on the original code of Firefox.

As the definition suggests, this is somewhat of a reaction to situations such as the perceived evil doings of Microsoft by forcing Windows, their world leading operating system on people.  Open source projects, as we said, can be played with by anyone, additions to a program are usually done by committee, and they tend to react quicker to security and stability issues because there are such large teams behind them with no corporate bureaucracy to fight their way through.

Are they inherently better?  Not always.  While they are free, and do tend to be more stable and so on, you have situations like Linux, an open source operating system to replace Windows, where there isn’t that much compatiable software for it.  Then you have situations such as WordPress and Firefox where everyone and their brother makes extensions and plugins for it.

We here at StarterTech use open source products whenever we can, but they aren’t for everyone, and you need to study to see if they fit with your needs.

Categories: What Is   
 

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