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What is Open Source? Know the Definition and How it Works

Last updated: Sep 23, 2022

What is Open Source?

Open source is a term that refers to a product that is publicly accessible so that the general public can modify or share it. This term is commonly used in the context of software development.

In developing computer programs, open source is an approach that uses open principles, participatory collaboration, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and is community-based.

Open source is a concept that allows users to examine, modify, and develop the source code of a program.

A Brief History of Open Source Software

Open source software was first coined by the Foresight Institute. The emergence of the idea occurred in the 1950s, when software was only developed by universities and corporate research centers. If you want to use the software, you have to source the code and adapt it to your device.

This method is very inconvenient, so not everyone can use the software. Therefore, the Foresight Institute creates source code that can be used by anyone without having to acquire the license.

After that, the term "open source software" began to be known. Other companies and communities started to develop such software, like Linux, Perl, Python communities, as well as Netscape and Red Hat companies.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, non-profit organizations began to emerge. Some of them are the Apache Software Foundation, the Linux Foundation, and the Python Software Foundation.

Until now, there are still many companies that create open-source software. For example, Linus Torvalds, who created the early version of Git, GitHub, which developed Git, and Google, which made the early version of Android.

Types of Open Source Software

Some open-source software is available for free. However, there is also paid software. The differences between the two types of software with open source principles are:

Commercial Software

This type of open source software is owned by the developer. Commercial software users can not access the source code. New users can get access to the source code if they incentivize the intellectual property rights owned by the developer.

Free Software

Free open source software contains the source code that can be accessed for free by all users. However, this type of software is different from freeware. Freeware can be downloaded for free, but its source code is protected by copyright and can not be accessed by its users.

How Open Source Works

The way open source works is by sharing the source code stored in public repositories with the wider community. Anyone can use this source code for various purposes without having to pay for the software.

There is a distribution license for open source software that determines how developers use, study, modify, develop, and distribute it. There are five commonly used licenses that you should know about if you want to use it:

  • MIT License
  • GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.0
  • Apache 2.0 license
  • GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.0
  • BSD 2.0 license

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