20 Years of OSS
Open-source software (OSS) turned 20 years last month, and software developers and technology enthusiasts worldwide are likely celebrating this pivotal time in tech history – and with good reason.
The public availability of open source software is the driving force behind much of the software we use daily. Open-source software is free software, but this doesn’t mean free in the traditional sense of the word when describing a product or service. “Free” means freedom of use when describing OSS.
OSS is crowd-sourced, so, like outsourcing, it comes with cost benefits. Most open-source software is free, though certain licenses do come with costs. Many companies worry about security when using both OSS and outsourcing companies combined; however, renowned outsourcing firms have security measures already in place, along with sound communication practices, to offset these concerns.
The guiding principles of Open Source Software
Code that is truly open source must adhere to ten key principles. These guidelines are detailed in full as the “Open Source Definition.”
In summary, here are a few of the primary rules for open-source software development and use:
- There are no restrictions on the distribution of aggregated open source software, nor royalties or fees.
- Source code must allow for distribution and compiled form.
- Software cannot be purposely complicated, and programmers should be able to modify the code with ease.
- Modifications and derived works are distributable under the same license as the original software.
- Derived works may be required to use a different name or version number with respect to the author’s original source code.
- Discrimination based on someone’s person, group affiliations, businesses, or research intentions is not allowed.
- Rights to an open-source program apply to everyone who shares the program.
- No open-source software should restrict other software. It should always be technology-neutral without favoring specific interface styles.
We all use Open Source Software
Consumers and businesses obviously benefit from open-source software development, but countless developers use OSS for improving their skills and building a lucrative career. Ask professional developers what life without open source would be like, and they might have a look of sheer cluelessness when considering such a possibility. Open source is the great-grandfather of Android, Firefox, OpenStack, and PHP. Without OSS, these software platforms may have never been born.
Many of our favorite online tools, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft were built with open-source software. Open source also powers MySQL. Without MySQL, we probably wouldn’t have access to WordPress, one of the most popular blogging and website building platforms in the world that hosts an estimated 19,500,000 websites and runs nearly 29% of the Internet.
When using OSS with an outsourcing company, it’s important to make sure its use is consistent with your corporate policy. Many businesses want to track all use of OSS with procedures put in place from a legal and technical perspective. As mentioned, most of the large outsourcing firms have these procedures in place, as they’ve been working with OSS on a global scale for decades. If you choose to work with a freelancer or with a smaller firm, be sure to ask about this before work begins.
Open-source software still impacts new technologies and how our world functions in major ways. While most software continues to operate under commercial licenses, open-source is inspiring a creative community of sharing and awakening almost endless possibilities for software developers and consumers.