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MOS1033A
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            During
the past decade, open source software has become quite popular in the business
world. Open source software (or OSS as it is commonly referred to) has provided
many advantages to businesses in software development, quality, flexibility,
customizability and freedom of use. From its inception, open source software
gained considerable notoriety among those in the field of computing. Because we
are now more connected than ever, open source software creation and modification has significantly increased.

Open Source software is now finding its way into industries where it had not been
used before. Open source software has changed how many businesses function and
is now quickly becoming central to how businesses conduct operations. The
purpose of this essay will be to analyze how open source software has shaped
and affected business. To begin, I will define what exactly open source
software is.

            Open
source software is created software whose source code is available and can
manipulated by anyone. Source code is the background programming part of
software that conventional users are usually not privy to. In contrast to open
source software is proprietary or closed software whose source code is not
available and can only be manipulated by people who own the rights to the
software. Some simple examples of proprietary software would include Microsoft
Windows, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Photoshop, MacOS and iTunes. To further the
definition of open source software Margaret Rouse at Techtarget.com (2006)
states that “open source
software refers to software that is developed, tested, or improved through
public collaboration and distributed with the idea that the software must be
shared with others, ensuring future collaboration”. The nature of
open source software’s collaboration and distribution are
what gives it its well to do moniker, but how is this type of software
licensed?

            Open
source software licensing is slightly different than traditional licensing.

Traditional licensing is designed to protect the intellectual property rights
of software owners, whereas open source software licensing is designed to
protect the open distributability of the software (“OSS Licensing
Overview,” 2013). In short, traditional licensing puts many
limits on the distribution and modification of software where open source
licensing has very little to no limitations on distribution and encourages
modifications to software. Open source software licenses mostly fall into two
broad categories of licensing, restrictive or permissive, however some licenses
occupy special categories with their own sets of specific stipulations.

Restrictive licenses “are preferred by projects who want to ensure the
future openness of a project; they restrict the ability to make a derivative
project’s code proprietary. Restrictive licenses require derivatives,
improvements, or enhancements to be made available under similar terms” (“OSS Licensing Overview,” 2013). Permissive Licenses “are often preferred if a project needs to protect trade-secrets or is
intended for a secure environment. Although the licensing of the original
project remains in force, modification and enhancements may become proprietary” (“OSS Licensing Overview,” 2013). Some examples of restrictive licenses include
the GNU General Public License (GPL) and the GNU Lesser General Public License
(LGPL). Some examples of permissive licenses are the Berkeley Software
Distribution License (BSD), The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
License and the Apache 2 License. Now that we have a better understanding on
how open source software is licensed I will continue this essay by analyzing
some of the advantages of using open source software.

            Businesses have found that the use
of open source software over proprietary software has bestowed many advantages
that provide businesses with a competitive advantage. The most notable
advantage that businesses recognize from get go is that open source software is
significantly less expensive than commercial proprietary software. In fact, a
large portion of open source software is typically free and has no limitations
on how many machines you can install the software on. According to Rachel
Bridge’s article at Entrepreneur Handbook (2017) it is estimated that the use of
open source software saves business around $60 billion a year. In addition to
cost savings open source software is extremely reliable. The reason why open
source software is so reliable is because the software is created by very talented
and skillful programmers that are looking to make their mark in the computing
world. Furthermore, because the software’s source code is open to anyone it can be worked on
and scrutinized by vastly more talented programmers than you could ever find at
one software company. Since so many people can work on one software
application, defects and bugs are more easily found and fixed as a result.

Katherine Noyes (2010) at PC World defines this phenomenon as “‘Linus’ Law,’ named for Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. According to that maxim,
‘Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow'”. Another advantage of open source software is customizability. Again,
since the software’s source code can be freely modified, businesses can
tailor the software to suit their specific needs without spending a fortune.

Once the source code is tailored to the specific needs of the business the
software itself can be installed on any number of machines. Unlike proprietary
software, open source software has no limitations on how many machines you can install
the software on, which is a huge cost saving advantage. A final advantage that
is provided by using open source software is flexibility. Typically, open
source software requires less computing resources to run, which means the
software has the ability to be run on older machines. This flexibility in open
software’s use saves on the cost of upgrading to run the latest version of
proprietary software. Although open source software comes with many advantages
it also comes with some disadvantages.

            The main disadvantage about using
open source software is that its source code is open to everyone. I know
previously I stated that this feature was an advantage for open source software
in that you have many people working on improving the software, but what about
people working on the software with malicious intentions. Since open source
software’s source code is readily viewable by anyone, people have the potential to
exploit defects and bugs within the system. The exploitation of defects within
the software can lead to damaging results such as stolen company and personal
information. Another disadvantage of using open source software is that the
software itself sometimes isn’t built to be user friendly. Most open source software
is created by tech-savvy programmers for tech-savvy programmers. To make the
most out of open source software it is necessary to hire professionals who
understand how to use the software. Unfortunately, the hiring of these professionals
will add costs to a businesses. A final disadvantage of open source software is
the lack support one would get from buying proprietary software. It is true
that there are companies that exist to aid people in the operation of open
source software, however, they are few and far between and can be expensive to
hire.

            Open source software can benefit
businesses in cost savings and improved efficiencies in the utilization of
software. One notable company that both uses and creates open source software
is the social media giant Facebook. In 2013, Facebook created two software
applications that it opened to the public, React and Presto. According to
Christine Abernathy’s (2015) article at opensource.com, React is Facebook’s JavaScript library for building user interfaces, and is being used by
companies such as Netflix and WordPress to build their respective products.

Presto, Facebook’s “distributed SQL engine for running interactive analytic queries against
data sources” (Abernathy, 2015) has aided Facebook in analyzing the large sums data
they’ve gathered. Christine Abernathy’s (2015) article then goes on to state that companies
like Airbnb, Dropbox and Netflix use this application as their exclusive
interactive query engine.

            Open source software provides many
advantages to businesses in the ways of cost savings, software development and
improved software utilization. Not only can businesses use open source software
to improve operations, businesses themselves can be created to earn profits in
supporting the use of open source software. Open source software’s popularity has grown from humble beginnings to a full-fledged community
of users and developers. Moving forward, open source software shows no signs of
disappearing anytime soon and will always be a popular alternative to
proprietary software. 

 

Bibliography

 

Question
one:

Rouse, M. (2006, November 28). What is open
source software (OSS)? – Definition from WhatIs.com.

Retrieved November 20, 2017, from             http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/open-source-software-OSS

 

Question
two:

OSS Licensing Overview. (2013, February 10).

Retrieved November 21, 2017, from          http://opensourceforamerica.org/learn-more/oss-licensing-overview/

 

Question
three & four:

Bridge, R. (2017, November 09). A guide to
open source software – Advantages &            disadvantages. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from             http://entrepreneurhandbook.co.uk/open-source-software/

 

Noyes, K. (2010, November 05). 10 Reasons
Open Source Is Good for Business. Retrieved          November
22, 2017, from             https://www.pcworld.com/article/209891/10_reasons_open_source_is_good_for_busines   s.html

 

Question
six:

Abernathy, C. (2015, December 28). Facebook’s
top 5 open source projects of 2015. Retrieved       November
23, 2017, from https://opensource.com/business/15/12/top-5-facebook-open-            source-projects-2015

 

 

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