What is Open Source and Why Should We Focus More on It?

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Last Updated: February 7, 2022

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Open Source Software (OSS) or some of you might be more familiar from just “Open-Source” is a free application whose source code is available for everyone to modify and use.

There is a vast misconception that free software and open source are the same, but it’s only partially true. In the later part of this blog, we’ll show you the meticulous differences between open-source, free, and proprietary software.

Open Source Definition

As we mentioned in the above section, open source is free software whose source code is available to everyone. It signifies the willingness to share, collaborate, and be thoroughly transparent. The final objective of this is to embrace failures and improve them at the same time.

How are Open Source and Internet connected?

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when the internet and other telecommunications technologies were at their initial development phase, they counted on the open and collaborative nature. Some of you might don’t the internet is based on ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). After many years of development and open feedback, the internet we know today, came into existence.

Since the ARPANET itself was an open-source project, many peers reviewed it and made continuous changes to the source code for better. The Internet has become one of the initial open-source projects and established some fundamental guidelines for open-end communication, collaboration, and peer review.

How does Open Source License work?

Remember the term ‘Source Code’ we tossed earlier, it is a part of the software that front-end users don’t see, though, it is the most important. An application works according to its source code.

If the software is open-source then it means the source code is free to redistribute and others can manipulate and alter the source code as per their will. On the other hand, closed source or proprietary software’s source can only be legally modified by its original creator or owner. The original creator could be an individual, a team, or an entire organization. In the case of proprietary applications, users need to agree with the terms and conditions of the owner.

However, when it comes to a license there are some sets of rules and guidelines that need to be followed in modifying, using, and distributing the original software. Broadly, there are two types of open-source licenses i.e. Copyleft and Permissive. Below, we have explained both of them.

Types of Open Source Licenses

Types of open source license
  1. Copyleft: According to the copyleft license law, it is mandatory to release the entire source code of the software including all modifications to the world. This makes the use of an open-source application as a commercial or proprietary software impossible. In a nutshell, the user cannot keep the source code libraries confidential. Though, copyleft doesn’t restrict the selling of the newly developed or modified software until the source code is also guaranteed to the recipient. There are a few sub-types of copyleft like Mozilla Public License, Eclipse Public License, Open Software License, GNU General Public License (GPL), etc.
  2. Permissive: According to the statement of the open-source initiative permissive is a “non-copyleft license that guarantees the freedoms to use, modify and redistribute”. Unlike copyleft, as a recipient, you are not obligated to keep the modified version of the source code open. Instead of that, it only requires you to provide the original copyright notice to the original creator of the source code. Types of permissive are Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), etc.

Advantages of Open Source

In the recent light of log4j vulnerability, even the White House has recognized the importance of this technology, its security, and its developers. They stated, “Open source software brings unique value, and has unique security challenges, because of its breadth of use and the number of volunteers responsible for its ongoing security maintenance.

The software giants like Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc have joined and are still contributing to this community. A survey, known as Future of Open Source Software, conducted by the Black Duck Software concluded that 78% of participants are using OSS for partial or even entire business operations. They believe that open source applications are better when it comes to scalability, deployment, and security. Below we have enlisted some perks to deliver you a broader picture.

  1. Control: This software gives more control to the users, they know what is going on in the backend at all times. The developer can take a look at the code and make changes as per their requirements.
  2. Training: Nowadays, more and more developers want to be a part of open-source projects because, in one way or another, these projects help developers in honing their skills. In addition to that, since open-source applications are publicly available to everyone, students can also get the in-hand experience without being a part of a company.
  3. Security: From the perspective of security, people believe software with public source code is more secure and upgrades continuously than proprietary software. This is because other developers can access the code of the software and point out the errors that could be missed by the original creator. Furthermore, they can fix the error themselves without asking the permission of the original developer which is not possible in the proprietary software.

How Free and Open Source Software are Different?

“Open Source and Free are the same”, is one of the most common misconceptions you can ever come across. Free software is a philosophy that states software always needs to be free, whether someone has contributed to the source code or changed the application for good.

The one thing that can differentiate both is “Freedom” and here we are not talking about economical freedom only, but Freedom as a value. Just like the freedom to speak.

Enterprise Open-Source Usage is on Uptrend

The proprietary software applications are losing their market share in the enterprise software market. According to a survey conducted by Red hat, proprietary enterprise software usage will decline by eight percent in the next two years. In the meantime, I have speculated that the growth will increase by five percent.

This is Red Hat’s fourth annual survey called “The State of Enterprise Open Source”. 1296 IT leaders from around the globe took part in this survey. According to this survey, 82% of IT leaders want to work with vendors who have contributed to the open-source community. Let’s have a look at the detailed breakdown of the report.

Top Reasons IT Leaders want to work with Open Source Vendors

  1. 49% say they are familiar with the concept.
  2. 49% say they want to help build and sustain a healthy community.
  3. 48% say they can influence and develop the features as their requirements.
  4. After working on open source, 46% believe they will be more effective if they encounter any technical problems.

OSS in Terms of Security

  1. Even in the terms of security, 89 percent of IT leaders believe that open-source applications are more or as secure as proprietary software.
  2. The reason this is way more secure is that 52% of all security patches are well documented and managed.
  3. As compared to the proprietary software, nearly over 44% of people test open-source. It means more people are testing and finding new bugs.
  4. 51% of IT leaders noticed vulnerabilities patches of these kinds of software are easily available.
  5. Since the source code is available to all, IT leaders find it reliving that code is available for audit.

All these points mentioned clearly show that enterprises are leaning towards the adoption of open-source.

The CEO of Red Hat also commented on that positive-looking report. He said, “W]hile the open-source development model may have started in the playground of developers, hackers, and visionaries decades ago, we’ve moved far past that,” and he further added, “It’s now a mainstream part of commercial software development and the engine for consistent innovation—from the server room to public clouds to the edge and beyond.”

Author at Red Hat, Gordon Haff also said, “We’re seeing more direct involvement of end-user companies in open source, Automotive Grade Linux and the Academy Software Foundation are two good examples of collaborations with a great deal of end-user company involvement. Open source program offices in end-user companies are also on the rise.”

Most used Open Source Software around the world

The applications we mentioned below are the most used open-source software around the world. Here we have only mentioned a few from various categories. In reality, there are thousands of such software that are used by millions of people.

Most used open source software

Linux [Operating System (OS)]

Linux was first released in 1991 and since then its popularity has only surged. Currently, there are multiple forks (modified versions of the original application) are in operation. Some of the Linux distros are Linux Mint, Elementary OS, Zorin OS, etc.

WordPress [Content Management System (CMS)]

WordPress was released back in May 2003 as an open-source Content Management System. Some of you might be surprised to know that WordPress itself is a fork on another content and community management platform i.e. b2/cafelog. WordPress is written on PHP and backed by MySQL and MariaDB Database.

A great chunk of the websites you see on the internet are built on WordPress, so you can have an idea of how popular WordPress is. Apart from this, there is a WordPress plugins library of more than 1500 extensions that allow the user to enhance the functionality of the platform as per their needs.

SuiteCRM [Customer Relationship Management (CRM)]

SuiteCRM, the fork of Sugar Community Edition, is used by almost 4.5 Million users around the world. It is also one of the most popular open-source CRM in the world. It is written in the PHP programming language and provides flexibility to its users to a great extent.

Just like WordPress, there are many SuiteCRM extensions available that allow the user to extend its existing functionality. There are plugins for integration with another platform, productivity tools, marketing automation, etc.

When leveraging open source code, it is critical to monitor repositories for vulnerabilities, stay updated on patches, review licenses and obligations, validate authenticity of packages, check for backdoors, test integrations thoroughly, limit privileges and access with webauthn (web authentication), encrypt sensitive data, and perform regular audits and risk assessments to ensure the open source applications used do not introduce new security risks.


Despite being so popular, software developers of such applications are not getting enough credit. For example, cURL is an application that is used in almost every modern device and is maintained by a single developer. Daniel Steinberg has been doing this for the past three decades for free. Even the White House has acknowledged this issue while pointing out the log4j vulnerability that emerged in the Java library in December 2021.

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