Open Source Software 101

Anyone who’s ever bothered to read Users License Agreements before clicking on OK, or I Agree, has come across clauses that forbid them from altering the code of the product in any way or distributing this modified and unapproved version of the program. However, there are bits of software out there that anyone can tweak – open source software.

What Is Open Source Software?

Open source software is the software that has code that anyone can read, review, alter, customize, and improve. Sometimes, the development of such software is done in a collaborative public manner, which means that the general public is responsible for the development of this software and it is not something done by a company or corporation.

Why Do People Use It?

There are many reasons to use open source software. Among them are security, transparency, and flexibility. In other words, you can review and change the software that you feel might lack in these areas. It is also possible to completely repurpose a program.

Another important aspect of open source programs is that they allow programmers to train. Why is that? Well, first of all, anyone can change the code. You can implement these changes and see whether the end result is better or worse than when you started.

Can’t I Modify the Programs I Have?

Unless they are open source programs, no. Remember how we mentioned the User License Agreement? Well, every piece of software has a license that tells you what it can be used for and whether it can be modified. Software developed by companies whose source code is off-limits to the general public is known as proprietary or closed source software.

Proprietary software belongs to a particular company or group and its ideas are not to be modified or redistributed. It also prevents people from looking at their ideas for solutions to their own problems, which is why there are so many advocates for open source in terms of transparency.

Is That Something Only Computer Geeks Enjoy?

Interestingly enough, no. Open source software is of use to everyone. If you are using the internet, it is very likely that you have come across some open source software in your business and pleasure and just don’t know it. You can find open source software in cloud computing, web browsing, office programs, and many other places.


A lot of people think that open source is the same as free. Truth be told, a lot of open source programs are free to use, as well. However, there is free software that you can’t tamper with and there is the open source software that you have to buy. It is because some people still want to make a profit or promote their brand.

Open Source Outside Software

This sounds like a strange concept, but there are so many things in life that have nothing to do with software and are, by definition, open source. Think of recipes, for example, or tools. Literally, anything that you can take, disassemble, study, reassemble, and improve, provided there are no legal limitations, is open source.