You may have heard the term “Open Source” before and wondered, what is open source? What software is open source? How do I get open source software? More than likely, you use something that is open source every day.
Open source, or more specifically open source software, is computer software that has been released to the world for free. But it is not the software itself that is released, but the source code. Source code is the code that makes up a program. It’s what runs on your computer when you have a program open. Source code is the program. Open source means that anyone can get this source code, and do whatever they want with it. They can just learn from it. They can redistribute it to others. They can even change the source code to add to the program. They are totally free to do with it as they choose.
This is quite different from most software, which is closed source, also called proprietary. Things like Microsoft Office and Windows 10 are proprietary. You pay for the software, then you use the software within the terms to which you agreed. You cannot change or even see the source code which makes up these programs. The source code is “closed” to you.
Some examples of open source software include Linux, WordPress, LibreOffice, Chromium, Mozilla Firefox, and Android. Their source code is “open” to you. You can do with it as you choose. It is also free of charge.
All open source software is licensed. The license is how the copyright holder makes his/her software open source, and it lets users know what they are allowed to do with the source code. Some open source licenses include GNU General Public License, MIT License, and Apache License.
Open source software is a great way for individuals and businesses to save money on their software needs. Most proprietary software types have open source alternatives, allowing you to do everything you need to do without any proprietary software, and therefore, not having to pay anything.