A guide to open-source technology: what is it and how does it work

Sushree Behera

As a user, do you want to transcend the boundaries of being a mere consumer of a black-box product? Do you wish for entirely new technology wherein you can experience liberty and become active participants, collaborators, and contributors? Well, your dream has now come true with “open-source technology“?

Does this term sound confusing to you? You must be wondering how this technology is going to be different from the traditional proprietary ones. Let’s explore!

What is open-source technology? 

Open-source technology, as the name suggests, is a technology model wherein users can access the source code and modify it according to the terms of the open-source license. In traditional proprietary software, the source code is only accessible to the owner or creator, who can copy or modify it. However, the scenario is completely opposite in open-source technology. 

The basic idea behind this technology is that knowledge should be accessible to all and that the power to shape technology should not be limited to a select few. 

However, you shouldn’t confuse “open source” as being free of cost. Generally, the creators charge people for using the open-source product they’ve created. However, in some cases, they are also bound to release the source code of the product along with it. This approach keeps the software free while enabling them to earn money by assisting users with installation, usage, and troubleshooting.

Read more: Google focuses on security with KataOS, the new open source operating system

How does the open-source technology work?

The basic principles of open-source technology and its products are transparency, openness, and collaboration. Now, are you wondering how this technology works? 

Firstly, a community of contributors from diverse backgrounds collaborate to prepare the project. The inclusivity and diversity of contributors facilitates maximum participation, which further creates an inclusive approach to development. 

Once the product is created, it’s released under open-source licenses such as GNU General Public License (GPL). These licenses specify the guidelines for using the product while maintaining its security and freedom. 

Along with the product, the user also gets unrestricted access to its source code. This means that anyone can inspect the code to understand how it works, identify bugs, or suggest enhancements. 

Now, the product is publicly available for the open-source community to put down their valuable contributions. These contributions undergo review by other developers to maintain the quality and security of the code

Now, with such unrestricted access, the chances of disagreement heighten. Well, in such scenarios, the contributors who wish to deviate from the main project create a fork where they can create new experimental branches of the software. 

The 7 reasons to switch to open-source technology 

Here are 7 reasons why people prefer switching to an open-source product over traditional proprietary software.

1. Control and transparency 

The control that comes along with an open-source product and its underlying code is undeniable. It’s not controlled by a single entity and accessible to anyone and everyone. Users can access, view, modify, and distribute the code freely. This transparency empowers individuals and organizations to customize the technology to suit their specific needs, ensuring that it aligns perfectly with their requirements.

2. Stability 

The open-source products are constantly under review and development by its vast community of users. Thus, the potential issues are identified and solved at the earliest. This level of scrutiny helps ensure that the technology remains stable and dependable, minimizing unexpected crashes or system failures.

3. Security 

The collective ecosystem of open-source products allows early detection and solving of possible issues or hidden functionalities. This ensures that the software or product is 100% safe, which is why people prefer it as a popular alternative to proprietary software.

4. Flexibility 

With the source code available publicly, users can easily modify, inspect and edit it. Moreover, they can also create a fork and generate new versions of the same product. Thus, open source software offers great flexibility to users.

5. No vendor lock-in 

With proprietary solutions, users can become dependent on a specific vendor, making it difficult to switch to alternative solutions later. In contrast, open-source technology allows users to freely access and modify the source code, reducing the risk of being tied to a single provider and ensuring long-term flexibility.

6. Open collaboration 

Open source products allow its community to actively participate and contribute to improving the software. This continuous and open collaboration fosters innovation, faster updates, and more robust and feature-rich solutions.

7. Cost-effective 

Open-source products are typically free to use, which significantly reduces licensing costs for businesses and individuals. Moreover, it eliminates the need for expensive proprietary software subscriptions, making it an economical choice for organizations seeking to optimize their budgets without compromising on functionality and quality.

Examples of open-source technology 

Are open-source products available in the technological world today? Absolutely! The first-ever open-source product was developed by UNIVAC in 1953, which goes by the name of the A-2 system. 

Have you heard of the operating system Linux? Adding to your surprise, it’s the largest open-source software in the entire world. 

Another popular example of open-source software is VLC Media Player. It’s a portable, cross-platform media player developed by the VideoLAN project. Available on both iOS and Android, you’ll find this software on almost every PC or smartphone. 

The internet browser Mozilla Firefox which is the fourth most popular web browser and has about 362 million users, is also an open source software. With thousands of plugins and extensions available for the mass audience, you can access it with a single click. 

The programming language, Python, is one of the best open-source software for developers. Well known for its simplicity and readability, it’s a battery-included language used to create mobile and web applications, video games, etc.

Read more: The 7 leading open source blockchain platforms of 2023

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