What do we mean by "Open Source"?

glossaryOpen-source is a buzz word in education, but what does it mean.  This article starts by looking at closed source software.

 


What is closed source?

Open source is the opposite of "closed source".  So what is closed source?

Closed source (or proprietary) software includes any software for which you are not able (or allowed within the licensing structure) to view the basic code that structures the software application.  Classic examples include Microsoft Windows, and Apple OSX, both of which are locked down operating systems that only Microsoft or Apple engineers can dabble with.  This certainly has many advantages, but what about the alternatives, and do they have any benefits for us?

 

Here are some excellent examples of Open Source Software

     

    Why would you ever want to change the code?

    Well for most of us the answer is we don't, we're more likely to break it than improve it.  But surely there's more to this than meets the eye?

     

    So what are the real advantages?

    Open Source means that you are free to download, use, distribute, modify and generally do whatever you like with the software (within reason, for instance you typically can't take credit for someone else's work) and there is usually no cost.

     

    It's not only free as in beer, but also free as in speech!

    In a community of good spirited developers working on free software that anyone can adapt and improve upon, the good stuff tends to float to the top (developers prefer to work on a product that has longevity) and so you typically get a "survival of the fittest" type model appearing.  Also innovation tends to happen very quickly too, as developers snap on to the latest ideas, and put their solutions out on the world wide web.

    For business and education this means that if the software is good, there is nothing stopping you from adopting it, wherever it makes most sense for you, and helping you make sense of it all is where the School IT Expert can help.

     

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