Open Source software is incredibly popular, but many people still don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. If you didn’t know, Open Source software is published with the entire source code for anyone to look at and modify. Generally, you don’t have to pay for this software. There are Open Source alternatives to packages like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop that won’t cost you a penny and very nearly do the same job. That’s why we’ve put together the most important reasons you may want to go Open Source.
This is the most obvious reason people come up with in support of Open Source software. After all, who wouldn’t want to get something as good as a paid software package for nothing? Of course, this is just one part of why Open Source software is great, but for the struggling student or developing nation citizen these programs can make a massive difference. You can buy an inexpensive laptop and load it with Linux, OpenOffice and a slew of other Open Source packages to make it a complete work or study machine for very little money. That sort of technological democratization isn’t just free, it’s priceless.
No Nasty Privacy Surprises
From a privacy and security perspective, Open Source software is particularly appealing. Since the source code is completely open, anyone can go through it and make sure there are no back doors or any sort of malicious code. You can take that source code and compile it yourself, to make extra sure that you only get what you want. You can remove things from the code you don’t want. Total transparency unlike anything else is something you get with Open Source software.
Massive Community Resources
Even the largest software companies in the world only have a few thousand coders. So the more complex software becomes, the more likely that bugs and other problems will slip through. One of the strengths of Open Source software is the vast number of community members who contribute code, check for bugs and decide what new features should be added.
While the development process might not be as cohesive as smaller proprietary development projects, the sheer massive “wisdom of crowds” effect has produced some shockingly good software.
You Can Take Control
While this only applies to a handful of people, Open Source software lets those with the right knowledge make any changes to the software they like. Which means they have total control over the software they use. Whether for personal or business use, its often much easier to take a piece of software that’s close to what you need and modify it, than it is to start from scratch.
Open Source frees you from the legal restrictions that commercial software companies place on users. You don’t actually own the software that you buy. Instead, you have a very specific set of privileges that the owner of the software can revoke. You are definitely not allowed to modify anything since it’s not yours to mess with.
Open Source software doesn’t belong to anyone and its license is designed to protect that fact. While people who contribute to Open Source projects must be credited, it will always be free and open to the public.
It’s an Alternative to Software as A Service
The world of software is changing. Companies like Adobe will no longer sell you something like Photoshop as a once-off boxed product. If you want to use their virtually industry-standard software you have no choice but to take out a subscription. This is not a bad thing. The subscription model comes with its own advantages. However, in the case of Adobe and other consumers no longer have a choice. Thanks to cloud computing and cheap broadband, proprietary software houses are now using a model that aligns more with the spirit of closed-source user agreements. Even operating systems such as Windows 10 are turning into cloud services. Which is one reason you don’t really have a say anymore when it comes to features, updates, and their timing.
If you use something like the GIMP instead of Photoshop or Ubuntu Linux, instead of Windows, you are no longer dependent on a company mother ship to keep you going. While there are plenty of advantages to the software-as-a-service model, it’s important to have an open alternative like this that can be used independently.
A Few Reasons NOT to Go Open Source
While the allure of Open Source software is strong and it’s one of the best parts of the modern computer world, there are some real problems that come with the territory. So in the interest of balance, we should talk about a few reasons Open Source might not be for you.
The first one is that Open Source software can still cost money. Since there is no company that “owns” a specific Open Source application, no one is responsible for it. So if you want to use Open Source software for a mission-critical purpose you need to come up with a solution. You can rely on the community, but there’s no contract binding them to help you.
In a professional setting, companies end up having staff who are experts in the specific software packages or operating systems on staff. Alternatively, they will have a support contract with an outside expert. So although they don’t have to pay for software licenses, they do end up paying in the form of support.
The other major reason you may want to avoid Open Source software is ease of use. For all their good points, FOSS applications tend to be a little user-unfriendly, although this isn’t always true. In general, however, Open Source is a positive development in the computer world. In a very real sense, much of what we all enjoy (such as the web itself) would not be feasible without it!
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