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Engineering LibreTexts

3.1: Open Source

  • Page ID
    75240

    What is Open Source Software (OSS)?

    Open-source software is computer software that has a source code available to the general public for use as is or with modifications. This software typically does not require a license fee. There are open-source software applications for a variety of different uses such as office automation, web design, content management, operating systems, and communications. The key fact that makes open-source software (OSS) different from proprietary software is its license. As copyright material, software is almost always licensed.

    The license indicates how the software may be used. OSS is unique in that it is always released under a license that has been certified to meet the criteria of the Open Source Definition. These criteria include the right to:

    • Redistribute the software without restriction;
    • Access the source code;
    • Modify the source code; and
    • Distribute the modified version of the software.

    In contrast, creators of proprietary software usually do not make their source code available to others to modify. When considering the advantages of open source software you should consider the open-source product itself. Open source products vary in quality. OSS software does not come with phone support or personalized e-mail support. However, there are commercial service providers who will provide support. If you need a lot of support, consider whether the overall costs of using an open-source product will be higher than that of a proprietary product.

    Keep in mind that while OSS is usually free there are some exceptions. You will usually be able to determine what these exceptions are by considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) involved in adopting and managing open-source software. While the software itself may be free, make sure you consider the need for additional services or products, as these may have costs attached (e.g. access to software updates, support services). You also have to take into account possible switching costs. These costs would include moving data from an old system to new systems, training costs, and costs involved when switching from one platform to another one (e.g. the costs of switching from Microsoft Windows to a Linux operating system). If your business does not have enough information technology expertise, you may have to outsource outside technical services to provide open source support or to manage its implementation and delivery.

     

    References

    Open Source Software. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.oercommons.org/courses/op...-software/view

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