Open-source software (OSS) is a form of computer software in which the source code is made available under a license that allows users to use, review, modify, and distribute the software to anyone and for any reason. Open-source software can be created in a public, collaborative environment. Open sharing is exemplified by open-source applications.
According to Perens (co-founder of Open-source Initiative), open source is a large software license that makes source code available to the general public with little or no restrictions on use and modification.
Most computer users never see “source code,” which is the code that computer programmers may modify to alter how a piece of software—a “program” or “application”—works. Programmers who have access to the source code of a computer program may enhance it by adding new functionality or repairing sections that don’t always function correctly.
For a variety of reasons, people prefer open source software to proprietary software, including:
Many people prefer open source software because it gives them more control over the software. They can inspect the code to ensure it isn’t doing anything they don’t want it to, and they can change any parts they don’t like. Users who aren’t programmers also benefit from open source software, because they can use this software for any purpose they wish—not merely the way someone else thinks they should.
Others prefer open source software because it aids their development as programmers. Students can easily review open source code while they learn to make better software because it is freely available. As their skills grow, students can also share their work with others, encouraging feedback and criticism. When people find errors in the source code of programs, they will share those errors with others to help them avoid making the same mistakes.
Some people prefer open source software over proprietary software because they believe it is more reliable and stable. Since anybody can access and change open source software, it’s possible that someone may notice and fix mistakes or omissions that the program’s original developers overlooked. Since so many programmers can work on a piece of open source software without obtaining permission from the original developers, open source software can be fixed, updated, and upgraded more easily than proprietary software.
For critical, long-term projects, many users prefer open source software to proprietary software. Since programmers openly share the source code for open source software, users who rely on it for vital tasks can rest assured that their resources will not vanish or fall into disuse if their developers stop working on them. Furthermore, open source software is more likely to implement and function in accordance with open standards.