The battle between open source and proprietary software has been ongoing for decades now and with no clear winner in sight.
In that regard, it’s akin to the dilemma between PC and Mac, Sony and Nintendo or Coca-Cola and Pepsi, where everyone is stubbornly holding their side of the trench, often with little to no understanding of the other side.
If you are somehow new to the open source vs proprietary software dilemma, want to know what is open source software, or want to know what the best 10 open source software examples you can use in 2019 are, then this article is the perfect place for you to check out.
What is Open Source Software?
There are plenty of open source software definitions floating around. The quick definition, according to OpenSource.com would be that open source software something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.
While this definition is simple enough and able to generally tell us what open source is, it’s a bit cut-and-dried and we can do a bit better.
In 2007, Open Source Initiative established The Open Source Definition, which they derived from Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). The definition states 10 criteria that a specific software must comply with in order for it to be considered “open source”.
These criteria are:
1. Free Redistribution
The license will not require a fee for selling or using the software as a part of an aggregate. Information can be collected in the same place, but can originate from different sources.
2. Source Code
The software must include the source code. If the source code was not distributed with the software, it must allow users to obtain that code by reasonable means (i.e. downloading it from the Internet) and cost.
3. Derived Work
Open source software must allow derived works (works based on the original license) to be distributed under the same terms as the original license.
4. Integrity Of The Author’s Source Code
The distribution of the modified source code can only be restricted if the license allows patch files to be distributed along with the source code to modify the software at build time.
5. No Discrimination Against Persons Or Group
The license must not discriminate against any persons or groups. For instance, based on their race, gender, nationality, income, etc.
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from using the program in any field of endeavor. In other words, if someone wants to use the software for his or her business, research or some other purpose, they should be able to do that.
7. Distribution Of License
The rights to the program apply to anyone the software is distributed to, without needing to obtain a new license.
8. The License Must Not Be Specific To A Product
The rights to the program must not rely on it being a part of a particular software distributor and anyone to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as if it was an original distribution.
9. The License Must Not Restrict Other Software
No restrictions shall be placed on software that is distributed together with the licensed software.
10. The License Must Be Technology-Neutral
The provision of the license will not depend on any specific technology.
Open Source vs. Proprietary Software – The Differences, Advantages and Disadvantages
Now that you have a better understanding of what is open source software, this leads us to the next question:
What is the difference between open source and proprietary software?
Or, perhaps to be more precise:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of open source vs proprietary software?
Proprietary, or closed source software, is a non-free software for which the publisher keeps the rights to intellectual property, including source code and copyright.
This is an important question because these pros and cons can and will ultimately influence which software you are going to purchase in the end.
The main difference, of course, comes from the cost and conditions of use. In general, open source software is cheaper (most of the time it is even free) and there are fewer conditions of use (although there may be some).
Now let’s go through some advantages and disadvantages of open source software and then follow up with the same for proprietary software as well.
This will hopefully help you get a better understanding of the difference between the two and, also perhaps specifically help you make a software purchasing decision based on your situation and requirements.
Advantages of Open Source Software
- Open Source Software Costs Less
Although there are some exceptions, open source software is usually free. However, keep in mind that programmers have to eat as well, so in order to do that, they sometimes charge for their work.
- Open Source Software Provides Training for Programmers
A lot of programmers create or modify existing open source software more as a way to improve their skills. For example, since it is usually free, that means universities can use them to teach their students more about programming.
- Open Source Software Is more Flexible
Unlike proprietary software, you can tweak and modify open source software as per your own needs.
- Open Source Software Requires Little or No Licencing
With open source, there are very little or sometimes no requirements when it comes to activation.
- Open Source Software Is Secure and Stable
Since you don’t have to wait for an official update or patch from the author, but can instead modify or update the program yourself (so can anyone else with the know-how), many consider security and stability to be two big advantages of open source software.
Disadvantages of Open Source Software
- Open Source Software Can Be Vulnerable to Malicious People
Remember, the code is available to ANYONE. That means not only well-meaning, but also malicious people, who may try to exploit its vulnerabilities.
- Open Source Software Lacks Support and Documentation
Although open source communities are usually very helpful, there’s usually no central place where you can go to ask for help with a problem. For that, you’d usually have to dig around forums or outdated documentation (if there is any).
- Open Source Software Can Be Complicated
Open source software sometimes suffers from “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem because so many custom software developers have the opportunity to edit, change and add to the code.
Advantages of Proprietary Software
- Proprietary Software Comes From A Single Vendor
With a single vendor, you can get all the tools you need in one place, instead of hunting for them all over.
- Proprietary Software Has Regular Updates, Bug-Fixes, Upgrades, etc.
Proprietary software is usually regularly updated with fixes and patches, which serves to increase their security and stability.
- Proprietary Software Does Not Require No Programing From The User
Another advantage of proprietary software is that it usually requires no or very little programming and is ready to use straight away. Practically, all you need is to install it.
Disadvantages of Proprietary Software
- Proprietary Software Can Have Cost Surprises, Hidden Fees and more
Proprietary software is from the get-go more expensive than open source one, but there may be even more costs that can hit you when you don’t expect. You often have to be very careful to spot renewal fees, extra monthly charges, or other hidden costs involved with your proprietary software.
- Proprietary Software Often Has Confusing License Schemes
Have you ever tried to read ToS or EULAs? DId you understand any of it? Me neither. Proprietary software terms of service are often filled with legalese mumbo-jumbo that you need a lawyer specialized in them to decipher.
- Proprietary Software Is Dependant on Vendors and Their Ability to Fix Software
Let’s say your program has a bug or some other vulnerability. You can’t go fixing it yourself, oh no. Instead, you have to wait until gets on it. While proprietary software is usually routinely updated, sometimes it will require an update before schedule, for instance in order to fix a security vulnerability.
Top 10 Open Source Software Examples of 2019
Okay, now that you understand better what is open source software as well as its pros and cons, let’s say you’ve made a decision to use it. This means the next question coming from your brain is likely:
What are the best open source software that I can use?
Don’t worry, we’ve anticipated that question and are bringing you 10 best open source software examples that should fit your needs in 2019:
Linux is a family of open source operating systems based on Linux kernel. It was created by Linus Thorvalds and first released on Sept. 17, 1991. Linux is usually packaged in “distributions”, of which the most popular are Ubuntu, Red Hat, Debian and Fedora.
Many devices, including Android run on Linux. The same goes for up to two-thirds of web pages, which run on Linux-run servers.
Apache is the most popular and widely used web server software as it runs on 67% of all servers in the world today. It is especially popular with WordPress hosting providers, and the majority of them use Apache as their go-to web server software.
3. Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is a free open source web browser available for Windows 7 and above, Linux and MacOs operating systems. It was officially released on Nov. 9, 2004 and garnered 60 Million downloads in a few months.
According to W3Counter’s Browser & Platform Market Share report for July 2019, Firefox is the 4th most popular web browsers with 6.5% market share, behind Chrome (55.4%), Safari (12.5%) and Internet Explorer & Edge (8.6%).
FileZilla is a free FTP software, which enables you to upload files directly to the server you are on. All you need to do is select the right file you want to upload and the location and voila!
LibreOffice a suite of free and open source programs for word processing, creating and editing spreadsheets, slideshows and diagrams, working with databases and more. It is available on Windows, Linux (default for many distros), MacOs, Android as well as online (via LibreOffice Online).
BIND is a domain name system (DNS) software created at the University of Berkeley (BIND stands for “Berkeley Internet Name Domain”). It can be used to run a caching DNS server and includes DNSSEC, Ipv6, load balancing and other features.
Ethereum is a distributed computing platform and OS based on blockchain technology that enables developers to create & execute programs and apps. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum applications include supply chain management, contract execution, in addition to cryptocurrency.
According to Coinranking, Ethereum is the second most cryptocurrency by market cap with $24.87 Billion, behind only Bitcoin and is currently worth $243.84.
Audacity is a digital audio editor and recording software available on Windows, MacOs and Linux machines.
It was created in 1999 at the Carnegie Mellon University by Roger Dannenberg and Dominic Mazzoni and officially released on May 28, 2000.
As of May, 2019, Audacity was downloaded over 73.3 Million times on FossHub, where it is hosted since 2015 (before that it was hosted on SourceForge)
Hailed as the open source and free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is raster graphics (meaning it is comprised of pixels and not paths like vector graphics) editing software used for editing images, changing image formats, drawing, retouching and more.
10. VLC Media Player
VLC is a media player/streaming media server created by VideoLAN project. It supports most file formats, and audio/video compressions and is available on Windows, MacOS and Linux desktop OS and mobile platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows Phone and other.
As you can see from these 10 open source software examples, this type of software has a wide range of applications and can cater to almost any audience (that needs a software of course).
Whether you are looking for a more available alternative to proprietary or custom software, that you can modify yourself, or something that you can have more control over, or to help you train to be a better programmer, open source software is the right way to go.
Looking for open source solutions for yourself or your business? Take a look at these Top Software Development Companies.