Open source is usually defined as a software that is released with source code. Source code is a particular programming language that allows developers to create and edit computer programs. This source code is available to the general public under a license that permits users to study, modify, improve and distribute it.
The main thing that differentiates open source software from any commercial software is its license. License indicates how to use the software and whether it is copyright or not. It is unique in this way, because it is always released under general public license. Under this license, certain parameters are required, which certify that the software is available to all or not.
According to the definition, these are the parameters specific to open source software.
Users can share the modified source code developed from original source code each time when the source code is modified again and again.
Software contains free source code and sharing is permitted in original form, as well as its modified version.
Modifications in original source code have some derived works to modify it. License allows sharing this work to other users.
Integrity of Author’s Source Code
Sharing of edited source code can be restricted, if the license requires sharing of patch files with source code at the time of modifying it. In such cases, license must be clear to share software which is developed from modified source code with its whole details to be known by different name or version from the original.
No Discrimination of Persons or Groups
License must not discriminate any person or user group. Software is available to everyone.
No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
Any type of field workers can use the software without any restriction.
Distribution of License
The rights to use the software are similar and equal to everyone.
License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
Even if the original source code is modified, the new software still has the same license terms.
License Must Not Restrict Other Software
Some users have a licensed version of other software but they are not restricted to use this software on the same platform.
License Must Be Technology Neutral
Any part of the license should not reflect on any exact tools or interface style.
Open source software comes with a lot of benefits in terms of business. Some of them are listed below.
Software normally does not need any license fees and its lower cost is one of the main reasons why small business adopts it.
A software developer can use the standard package and modify it as per the business needs.
Reliability and Quality
It is not feasible to say that this software is better than commercial software regarding reliability and quality. However, mature products are good in terms of reliability and quality. For that, you have to review some examples which are more mature, like Linux, Apache, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, OsCommerce, Zen Cart, and many more.
Reduces Vendor Lock-in
Commercial software use is restricted because of certain vendors, and it also involves considerable costs. Selecting open source software made users free of vendors somehow. For some products, there may be a limited number of vendors that can provide security patches, upgrades or other services.
Availability of External Support
Some vendors provide support contracts; service providers can install, configure and maintain the system. Plus, there usually is a large online community that supports and answers your questions.
Each and every product varies in terms of quality and limitations. Below are some possible limitations of open source software.
Lack of Personalized Support
Software packages don’t come with phone or email support like paid software. And if you want a support, the overall cost can be higher than commercial product.
There is much less options available for open source software.
Speed of Change
Software is regularly updated in community, which makes it difficult to ensure the compatibility of the software with other applications.