Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software – What’s the Difference?
To thoroughly grasp what open source is, one should understand what it is not. Open source is not restricted by licensing agreements, and the user behind open-source software is not forbidden to change, edit, study, or redistribute manipulated versions of it.
Open-source software grants its users a degree of accessibility that is not possible through its proprietary counterpart. Open-source codes are published publicly for all who wish to study and manipulate them, whereas proprietary software keeps users more restricted, inside hard, iron-clad lines.
Richard Stallman, founder of the free Unix-style operating system GNU and leading voice in the open-source movement, asserts that there are four essential freedoms of open source:
- The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. Doing this gives the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
Open Source Is Essential for Modern Development
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These freedoms, for Stallman and open-source advocates everywhere, are part of what makes open-source a huge driver of innovation. Due to its free nature, open source inevitably cultivates collaboration and prompts interaction among those in the software world. Code can be constantly shared in open-source environments. This leads to increased productivity because coders waste less time searching for solutions to problems, and it supports the diversity of skill sets.
If a glitch occurs when using proprietary software, especially in the business realm, one typically must go through many channels to get it fixed; open-source software, on the other hand, gives the user a greater sense of agency over issues and user experience. This is convenient for expert software engineers and is integral for educational purposes, as it allows students to learn through application. Any student of code, whether they be pursuing a degree in computer science, or a hobbyist trying to make their own program from scratch, can click “view source” in their web browser and dive deeply into the recipe of the site’s open-source code.
This education is also driven by the open-source community’s expectation that users will be active participants in its democracy. Open source follows the philosophy that all can contribute to the pot of knowledge, and discoveries should not be withheld under the guise of intellectual property.
Open source empowers the user over the program and encourages the utmost technological collaboration and education. It allows users the liberty to change the source, making it do what they want it to do. Rather than the user remaining stuck inside the constraints instilled by a proprietary developer, the open-source experience allows a higher potential to execute the exact desire of the user. The philosophy of open source flips the notion that one must maneuver code in the bounds of the preexisting and promotes a more dispersed power dynamic.
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