How does Open Source Software Work?

If you’re not new in the tech world, you have heard about the term open-source software. You may not understand the theory behind it. For your information, many software you come across is in the form of a compiled version. This aspect means that they require a compiler program to run. The compiler help in translating the software’s source code so that the computer can understand them.

With this principle, the compiled software versions are hard to modify or customize. The software developers love compiled version as it helps to eliminate copying of the codes while maintaining the software’s features and quality. The opposite of compiled software is open-source software. So, what is it and how does it work? Keep reading to learn more.

What is Open Source Software?

As the term suggests, open-source software is one whose source codes are open. This means that developers and programmers can copy, modify, customize, and distribute the source codes in their software versions. Also, you can distribute the original software copies as you wish. The open-source software has no copyright-licenses restricting its use or modification.

In essence, the developers advocate for the use and improvement of the source codes to make the software even better. The open-source software is not the same as freeware. Freeware is software that is free for the user to download.  While open-source software is free to modify and customize, it might not be free to download.

How Does Open Source Software Work?

When a developer launches an open-source software, they submit its source codes to a public repository that is accessible and shared publicly. This aspect makes it easy for everyone to access the source codes and use them to create their version. Also, they have an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the current software’s design and functionality.

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All open-source software comes with distribution licenses that define how you can use, modify, or distribute them. Some of the popular licenses that govern the use and distribution of open-source software are:

MIT license – this license allows users to modify the original source code of the software with few restrictions. Also, users can relicense their version into compiled or proprietor software. The license is GPL compatible meaning you can change your MIT software license to a GPL software one.

GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.0/3.0 – under this license, the users have the obligation of releasing the entire source codes and allow other users to change and share them.

Apache License 2.0 – this license allows users to use, modify, and share software code. However, if the user wants to share derivative codes or redistribute them, they must include a statement that the file is a modified version.

Common Development and Distribution license 1.0 (CDDL-1) – with this license, you can modify, share, and redistribute both original source codes and their derivatives. However, no user can copyright, trademark, or patent any software or modification developed under this license. So, you must make the modified codes available to the public.

Examples of Open Source Software

Since the coining of the term open source in 2005, many developers and tech companies have come up with an open resource. Linux is one of the oldest open-source software that many companies including Google have applied to develop its derivative mobile operation system – Android. Mozilla is the next example of an open-source browser.

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When it comes to programming, Python is a perfect example of an open-source programming language while PHP is a nice open-source scripting language. Also, Thunderbird and Apache are other types of open-source software.

Pros and Cons of Open Source Software

Open source comes with several benefits and shortcomings for the users. Here are some of them:


It is free

The open-source software is free to use, modify, and distribute. This aspect saves businesses a huge amount that they would use in developing software for a specific task. Since the source codes are available, you can modify the software to suit your purpose. Also, your business can benefit from improvements and modifications from the leading developers and programmers in the world without incurring any cost.

Promote collaboration

Collaboration is essential in the tech world. By allowing access and distribution of the source codes, open-source promotes collaboration. The developers and users’ communities can collaborate on a particular project which leads to the improvement of the software.

High reliability

Any superb tech must be reliable to the end-users and this is the concept behind open-source software. The source codes of this software are available to the public and undergoing constant improvement and updates. This aspect helps to improve the reliability of the open-source software as it lengthens its availability.  

Versatile and flexible

The open-source software allows versatility. As a user, you can modify this software to fit your needs and purposes. This means that you are not in the confinement of a particular vendor. Also, you can combine them with vendor-sourced software to enhance your business functionality.  As such, it enhances flexibility with your business.

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Less user friendly

The open-source software does not focus on commercial use. Instead, the developers take the central stage in their development. For this reason, the software is complex and less user-friendly. The developers do not give an eye on the user interface but focus on the code modification aspects.

High possibility of exploitation

As noted, the source codes of open source software are available to the public. This aspect allows many people to modify and interfere with them. While this is a good idea, scammers and hackers can take the advantage of this aspect to lounge their malicious activities. Hence, it makes the users vulnerable to such exploitation activities.


As you can see, open-source software is transforming the tech world. The aspect is enabling developers and users to collaborate in improving software and apps. Also, it is enabling a business to minimize costs as they can modify a software code to match their needs.

However, the possibility of exploitation and being unfriendly to the users are some of the shortcomings of the open sources. Despite these aspects, many tech giants are launching open sources which give an indication of a bright future for this approach.   

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