Open Source Software

Open Source Software Definition

Open source software refers to computer code that is distributed under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to freely access, modify, and distribute the software for any purpose.

Image depicts generic code representing the essence of open source software.


What is Open Source Software?

The Open Source Initiative, launched as a steward organization for the open source software movement in 1998, established and published The Open Source Definition, a guideline outlining the criteria with which software distribution terms must comply in order to be classified as open source software:

  • Free Redistribution: The open source software license shall not require a royalty or other fee for the sale or distribution of software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources.
  • Source Code: The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form.
  • Derived Works: The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
  • Integrity of The Author's Source Code: The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form, but must also explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code.
  • No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
  • No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
  • Distribution of License: The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
  • License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
  • License Must Not Restrict Other Software
  • License Must Be Technology Neutral

Open source software is often developed using the bazaar model, which exhibits several distinct patterns, such as early releases, frequent integration, several versions, high modularization, dynamic decision-making structure, and the practice of treating users and co-developers. Solutions used to support open source software development include tools such as Concurrent Versions System (CVS) and Git, bug trackers like Bugzilla and Redmine, and source code hosting facilities such as Launchpad.

What are the Pros and Cons of Open Source Software?

There are several advantages of open source software, including:

  • Cost-effective: Many open source software licenses are available at no cost.
    Reliable: Typically, thousands of independent programmers are testing and fixing bugs in the software.
  • Flexible: Modular systems allow the collaboration of a large number of different programmers to build custom interfaces or add new abilities.
  • Secure: Free software is not beholden to customer requirements and can therefore be developed in accord with purely technical requirements.
  • Quick innovation: The mix of divergent perspectives, corporate objectives, and personal goals speeds up innovation.
  • Freedom of use: Free of royalty concerns and copyright issues, users have the right to freely access, modify, and distribute open source software for any purpose.

There are some potential setbacks associated with open source software programs. While there is no initial cost, there may still be some indirect, long-term costs for external support and maintenance. External support may be a necessary component due to the developer-friendly nature of open source software and its tendency to rely on its community of users to respond to and fix problems. There may be a steep learning curve for users adopting open source software solutions. The disadvantages of using open source software may include exposure to hackers. While open source code benefits from being available for further improvements within the developer community, it is also available to be viewed by malicious users who may seek out vulnerabilities to exploit.

What is the Difference Between Free Software and Open Source Software?

Free software refers to computer software that is distributed under terms that allow users to run copy, distribute, study, change, or improve the software for any purpose, with an emphasis on liberty rather than price. The Free Software Definition, outlined in 1983 by Richard Stallman as a foundation of the Free Software Movement, states that software must follow the “four freedoms” in order to be classified as free:

  • Freedom 0: The unlimited freedom to run the program for any purpose
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works and understand it
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to share copies of the software and hereby to help people
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program and to distribute improvements to the program so that everybody profits from it

While both open source software and free open source software essentially refer to the same set of licenses and software parameters, the difference lies in the underlying goals and philosophy. The Open Source Initiative focuses on the technicalities of the public development model and on promoting open source ideas based on pragmatic, business-case grounds. The Free Software Initiative focuses more on the ethical issue of user rights, community cooperation, and liberation in cyberspace.

What is Open Source Software Used For?

Various types of open source software have been adopted in some manner by nearly every field, including but not limited to: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, computer simulation, data mining, data visualization components, enterprise search engines, web browsers, middleware, bug trackers, game engines, healthcare software, antivirus, open source dashboard software, open source GIS software, open source relational database software, and open source database management software.

Some of the most popular and best open source software examples include the Apache Web Server, the e-commerce platform osCommerce, internet browsers Mozilla Firefox and Chromium, the full office suite LibreOffice, the GNU/Linux operating system, and its derivative Android, an operating system for mobile devices.

How Does Open Source Software Differ from Proprietary Software?

Proprietary software, also known as closed source software, refers to non-free computer software that has restrictions on any combination of the usage, access, copying, modification, or distribution of modified versions of the software, and for which the software's publisher retains intellectual property rights.

Is Open Source Software Safe?

Open source software can be safely deployed with due diligence, but, like any application, it is not completely without risk. Open source software benefits from its large user community of developers and beta testers, which have a shared interest in characterizing problems, and quickly detecting and fixing vulnerabilities. However, open source software bypasses lengthy, critical security reviews while providing no guarantee of security support, making it the responsibility of the individual system owner to take the initiative, or employ a security administrator, to monitor security issues, detect vulnerabilities, and apply fixes to their own implementations.

Does HEAVY.AI Offer an Open Source Software Solution?

HEAVY.AI is an open-source SQL engine which puts it on the fastest path to innovation by building a global community of users and developers. HEAVY.IDB is available on GitHub under the Apache 2.0 license, alongside other components like a Python interface and JavaScript infrastructure, making HEAVY.AI the leader in open source analytics.