What is Open-source Software: Everything you wanted to know

Yuval Hazaz
Yuval Hazaz
May 30, 2023
What is Open-source Software: Everything you wanted to knowWhat is Open-source Software: Everything you wanted to know

In the dynamic realm of technology, where innovation reigns supreme, one approach has gained remarkable traction—open-source software. With its ethos of transparency, collaboration, and limitless possibilities, open-source software has revolutionized the way we develop, share, and customize applications. From operating systems to data analysis tools, its impact spans across diverse domains. Join us on a journey as we delve into the history, advantages, and vibrant ecosystem of open-source software, uncovering how it empowers developers and businesses alike. Discover why open-source software is not just a buzzword but a transformative force shaping the digital landscape.

Open-source software (OSS) is code distributed under a license that allows the users to access the software's source code and modify and build new features upon the existing software to meet the user requirements. Open-source software applications are vast and varied, ranging from operating systems, web browsers, and mobile applications to data analysis tools, machine learning frameworks, and cloud computing platforms. This article will discuss the open-source software model, history, and advantages of using OSS. We will also examine the difference between open-source software and closed-source software.

History of Open-Source Software

In earlier days, academics and corporate researchers working in collaboration primarily implemented software. Therefore, everybody shared software often due to the openness and cooperation already established in academia. However, by the early 1970s, software development had become more expensive, and corporations started licensing and selling software products. IBM was one of the market leaders at the time. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, software vendors began regularly charging for software applications and licensing and restricting new software development on the existing platforms. Furthermore, vendors began to distribute only the machine executables of the software without the source code.

Among the many developers unhappy with these developments was Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, who initiated the GNU project intending to build a complete, free operating system. Furthermore, they created the GNU General Public License (GPL), allowing users to copy, modify and redistribute the software for free as long as their new version is distributed under the same license.

With the rise of the Internet and software built around it, collaborative development became much easier, and open-source software had massive growth. By 1991 Linus Torvalds announced the project to create an operating system kernel, and he released the first version under the name Linux in 1994. Linux gained much traction since it was a free and open-source alternative to the other proprietary operating systems. The introduction of the Apache web server in 1995 quickly made it one of the most popular web servers in the world, enabling developers to host their web applications without any cost for the web server and yet be used by millions of websites and web applications. In addition, the open-source license of the Apache web servers enabled the developers to manipulate the source code to improve its functionality.

Another powerful open-source software was the MySQL database, introduced in 1995. MySQL is among the most widely used databases, which enables developers to modify the source code to improve performance and reliability freely.

In 1998, Open Source Initiative was founded to promote and support open-source software, paving the way to the current open-source software ecosystem as we know it. In addition, open-source software enabled the innovation of new technologies based on open-source software, with the collaboration of a massive open-source community. Amplication is one such example of an innovative open-source tool that can help developers build high-quality applications efficiently. In essence, open-source software became one of the factors influencing the expansion of the Internet.

Open-Source Software Development Model

The open-source software model is a collaborative approach to building software. Contributors can be anyone from individual developers to large corporations. Developers contribute to the project via collaborative platforms like GitHub, and all contributors are allowed to modify the source code in the repository as long as the modifications follow the license terms and software standards.

When creating a new project, all contributors have access to add new features, modify the source code, and create pull requests to make the software better. The project maintainers review these pull requests and merge them into the repository. Then, the codebase maintainers can create a new release with the newly added features.

The open-source software model relies on the community to build and improve the software with feedback. But some companies also specialize in building open-source software, such as Red Hat, Canonical, SUSE, Docker, and HashiCorp.

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Open Source Vs. Closed Source Software

Open and closed sources are software models that differ in licensing, source code availability, and many other factors.

Source code and development

In the open-source software model, source code is freely accessible and developed by a large community of developers. Whereas in closed-source software, the source code is confidential, hidden from the users, and maintained by the owning company.


Open-source software is distributed under an open-source license such as GNU General Public License, which makes it accessible for anyone to modify and distribute under the same license. But in closed-source software, they are distributed under a proprietary license which restricts any unauthorized modifications or distribution of the software.


The community maintains open-source software and decides the required features and the road map according to their needs. On the other hand, closed-source software is based on proprietary models where the owner corporation owns and manages the software's features and road map.

Features, support, and cost

Open-source software provides flexibility and customization since users can modify the source code. But more support might be needed when a unique issue arises. On the other hand, whereas closed software is expensive, it provides support for the software. Therefore, it may have advanced features compared to its open-source counterparts.

There are both pros and cons to both software models. Therefore, choosing the correct software model depends on the specific use case.

Benefits of Open-Source Software

Open-source software provides many benefits, such as:

Reduced expenses

Most open software is free and significantly less expensive than commercial software alternatives. Therefore, small businesses and start-ups can benefit considerably from open-source software.


Open-source software enables users to modify the software as needed since the source code is freely accessible. Therefore, open-source software is an excellent fit for businesses that need custom software tailored to their specific needs without reinventing the wheel.

Rapid and innovative development

Since a large community creates open-source software, it can result in quick and innovative development cycles because the software is built via teamwork.

Transparency and security

Since OSS is developed through a collaborative process involving a vast community, any security flaws or defects in the program can be found quickly. Moreover, the transparency of the source code can be easily verified because the source code is publicly available.

Overall, OSS provides many benefits ranging from cost savings to transparency and security of the software. In addition, by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of a large global community, OSS can be developed much more efficiently while serving a broader range of perspectives.

Applications of Open-Source Software

OSS has a wide range of applications, including:

  • Operating systems: Open-source operating systems like Linux provide an excellent alternative to their commercial counterparts like Windows.
  • Web servers: Many web servers like Apache and Nginx are OSS and highly used to build websites and web applications.
  • Database Management: Database software is essential to building applications, and many popular open-source alternatives are available for storing and managing data, such as MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • Development tools: Several tools are utilized when implementing software, and many popular open-source development tools are available to ease the development process, such as Git and languages like Python. In particular, Amplication is a powerful open-source development tool that can help streamline development. If you're a developer looking to accelerate your software development process, consider checking out Amplication and contributing to the growing open-source community.
  • Security: OpenSSL and OpenSSH are highly used open-source software in secure communication and data encryption.

Open Source and Amplication

Amplication is an open-source tool for developing software that anyone can access, use, edit, and distribute under the rules of the license. Amplication's open-source nature also makes it a transparent and collaborative tool. Users can audit the source code and help identify and fix any bugs or security issues found in the source code. And by utilizing the power of the open-source nature, Amplication can benefit from a wide range of perspectives and expertise, resulting in higher-quality code and features. Amplication's open-source nature makes it a powerful and accessible tool for developers who want to build and deploy scalable web applications quickly and efficiently. It also aligns with the philosophy of open-source software, which emphasizes collaboration, transparency, and accessibility.

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Open-source software is a valuable and vital part of the technology ecosystem. Since the dawn of the Internet era, open-source software has contributed significantly to shaping the development and innovation of technologies. Therefore, though issues need to be addressed, open-source software continues to gain ground as an attractive alternative to commercialize software for small businesses or anyone looking to develop tailor-made software for their specific needs. Therefore, irrespective of your role, it is essential to understand the basics of open-source software to make informed decisions when choosing software for your business or personal life.

I hope you have found this article helpful. Thank you!


Q1: What's the difference between open-source and free software?

The difference between open source and free software lies in the philosophies. Free software advocates user freedom and ethical software-related considerations, in contrast to open-source software, which focuses mainly on the collaborative development of software. Hence, open source is a way of building software, whereas free software is a social movement.

Q2: What is an example of free and open-source software?

The Linux operating system is a free and open-source software. Other software includes LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, VLC Media Player, Apache web server, Python, and many more.

Q3: What is an example of open-source software?

OpenOffice is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. Many other open-source tools exist, such as Amplication, Git, and WordPress.

Q4: Where is open source used?

Open-source software is used in various industries and domains, such as software development, web servers, cloud computing, multimedia, education, etc. In addition, many developers use open-source tools and libraries to build software products.