Open source? I don’t believe you are giving away your source code, isn’t that your intellectual property? Isn’t the source code your bread and butter? Isn’t that your ace card? What kind of business will you run with open source?
While these questions are valid in their own place, the discussion of open source is on a different level. Software has moved from the programmer’s backyard to the business’s courtyard. Software today plays a bigger role in the businesses, and even in our daily lives. For this to keep working efficiently, participation of the business and people has to increase in the decisions taken regarding the software. These are not technical decisions, but practical decisions, which will eventually affect the technical decisions. Open Source is just a way of enabling this!
Software creators have to open their mind to the software user – the people, the businesses. They should be able to gain control over a software once they decide to use it. Only then will they be confident enough to use it to the fullest and contribute back. Otherwise the only knowledge they gain is from the creator, who can manipulate it as and when required. Open source is a way of breaking this barrier, making it transparent and inviting users to contribute. This has helped the software creators to identify the right requirements and normalize the product against a community.
The spirit of open source is to provide more to the user. This has also benefitted the developers as there is increased collaboration and participation. Linux, Mozilla, Apache, WordPress are only some of the successful open source projects which reflect the advantages of open source development. You will find many more such in open source repositories like Sourceforge or Freshmeat.
There are also some misconceptions regarding open source that create doubts for businesses. The popular ones are:
- Open source means free and free means free of cost
- There is no/minimal support for open source products
- Because the source code is open open source products are insecure
- Open source is for geeks
Open source does not mean free of cost, free means freedom, freedom of choice that is available from the control. Opening up the source to the users has built up a strong user community around such products, not only improving the support system for it, but also enhancing the development cycle creating some excellent products as mentioned earlier.
Having said this open source also poses certain business and copyright problems. While I am not an expert in the business model for open source, here is some information I have found regarding this:
I am sure in future more such ideas will come out which will prove that open source is not against business. It is for users, and for business.
Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda