Open source software differs from traditional propriety software because the software source code can be modified or enhanced by anyone. The way a program or application works can be manipulated – typically – by the source codes computer programmers, which can improve a program by fixing parts or adding features.
The source code includes free software and public domain software, which can be used by anyone with very minimal restrictions. The Public Licence (GPL), requires that if a modified version of the software is distributed, the source code must be made freely available. Open source is not dependant on the company or individual that originally created it. The source code will continue to exist and be developed by its users even if the company it originated from fails. The quality and security of open source software is constantly evolving because most open source applications have their own communities, so the number of users is much higher, which in effect greatly lowers the risk of a system failure. Companies will benefit hugely from the speed of bug fixes within their software. If a user finds a bug, he or she will report it to the community and they release a patch as soon as possible. Because open source is usually a free software service, corporations often donate money to the communities when they are happy in order to continue their work in developing new versions of their proprietary software systems to cut their licencing costs each year.
Propriety software has a much more restrictive nature with its user. The source code is usually kept exclusive to the individual (or company) that developed it. It can have problems with compatibility with some formats which can be easily accessed with open source because of its ‘open standards.’ Propriety software requires the user to take anti-piracy measures like product activation within its licensing model, which can become a complex issue, but one that simply does not exist when using open source. On the flip-side, however, propriety software still has its advantages over open source even to this day. Open source is not by any means straight-forward to use. It requires much more effort and training from the user’s side before they are able to take advantage of all its possibilities. Some users may want a much simpler, more private user software which allows them to take personal control and avoid the on-going parallel developments which can cause a lot of confusion on what functionalities are present in the compatibility of their software. Switching to open-source involves a compatibility analysis of all the other software used that run on proprietary platforms. Another advantage of using proprietary software is that it can have more features that appeal to the business owner. This includes the ability to take advantage of the software companies’ customer service department for trouble shooting and setup purposes. Website-development features may be integrated within the word processing programs, which can be compatible with other proprietary software made by the same manufacturer. Additionally, proprietary software is generally tailored to meet market need, which is not always the case with open source software.
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Author: Dan Myers