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Is Open Source Becoming the Default?

When it comes to software, either the user controls the program or the program controls the user. When the user controls the program, that program is considered free and open source software. On this base level, it appears to be the obvious choice. Open source becomes the default.

But there has to be a reason why open source is growing into the default option. Users are embracing and implementing the technology like never before. Even open source’s former enemies, proprietary software vendors, are exploiting components of the software and code.

Open source software came about as an alternative, but now it’s so common there’s nothing “alternative” about it. Here’s why open source has grown into the default.

It has grown into the default connective tissue for developers

Open source started as a counter-culture substitute for proprietary software. But now people who believe they “don’t use open source” rely daily on platforms using open source infrastructure. Many online platforms, softwares, and critical business sectors, from financial institutions to social networking platforms, rely on open source technologies to make the most of the work they’re doing. Even if you aren’t championing open source turning into the default, you’re like supporting it without even realizing.

A 2017 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) report highlighted that in an audit of 1,100 commercial applications, 96 percent contained elements of open source software. Of those applications, there’s an average of 257 open source components per application. The question of “Open Source versus Proprietary” is no longer a simple binary choice.

Open source is helping software developers improve both their code and skills. There’s a large community of developers and users who are writing, modifying, and implementing projects, and each user can share their processes and provide guidance to others.

2017’s Open Source Survey indicates that 65 percent of employed respondents contribute to open source as part of their work duties. Users of open source are also contributing to the project, implementing features their organizations need. They then contribute those changes back to the entire community. This means an open source development community is directly subsidized by the companies using the software.

From this perspective, embracing open source for organizational needs is not so much investment of dollars as of talent. For an open source program to be successful, the expectation is primary organizations that use the software should also contribute to its development.

Not only is it cheaper — but it can do way more

In the 1980s, closed and proprietary (not to mention expensive) software was the norm. IT pros had difficulties with necessary customization. They’d have to contact the vendor and list precise specs for the feature that was lacking. If they were lucky, a software revision might drop within a year. In the meantime, admins had to cobble together a crutch that allowed the business to operate.

Fast-forward to the present day. Open source software is quietly the default in many aspects of our lives. From the world’s most powerful data centers to our dishwashers and other IoT devices, developers are opting to use open source software from the get-go. It’s clear why — the software can be tailored to do exactly what they need it to. And as we know, open source software comes with a very small (if any) price tag compared to proprietary alternatives.

Open source software has plenty of other benefits that make developers push it to a default position. Open source gives users full control to do what they want with whichever pieces of code they’re using. It also is less resource-intensive, giving users options to run it on nearly any hardware, as well as a choice of upgrading whenever they want. As a result, more developers are praising the comprehensive ability of open source technology — and getting more users on board in the process.

With open source being as modifiable as it is, open source-based products are generally more secure. This enhanced security, backed by the community of developers uploading, maintaining, and enhancing, keeps open source software updates constant — an appealing quality to a developer looking for pre-built code to tie into their project.

Regardless of the type of project you’re working on, one benefit open source brings likely makes a compelling argument for you to try weaving some components in. And with all the technology in our daily lives that borrows pieces from open source code, it makes sense to jump on board.

It’s collaborative, like all other modern software development methods

When it comes to open source software, you have a world of support at your fingertips. This mainly comes from the extensive community that works on each piece of software. Almost all Linux distributions have online communities with excellent documentation, forums, and even live support chat.

Open source’s rise is pointing toward a larger trend encompassing all modern software development methods. Developers are growing more collaborative due to a higher use of more advanced social technologies, giving rise to more interactions and conversations. This makes collaborating on projects, sharing source codes and softwares, and an enhanced productivity easier. And the freedom that comes with anything open source fits right into this growing movement.

As open source technology enters an age of maturity and acceptance, two categories of stakeholders are defining themselves. The first, and most common, is the organization that uses open source software and then contributes back to its development. The second category seeks to break into the open source industry by creating a maintenance and support system for free software.

No matter which category you and your organization fall into, you should follow these principles to help steer the open source community toward success:

  1. An open source project succeeds because of its community, not the other way around. This aspect is vital from a business standpoint as it makes clear that in an open source project, there is a community that needs to be maintained. The occasional hiccups in community maintenance by big corporations have created some unfortunate situations. Among the more notable of these is the fork of MySQL to MariaDB, as well as the parallel business application suites OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
  2. Open source’s success has traditional software companies scrambling for cover or embracing this new paradigm. Most have chosen to embrace, including long-time holdouts such as Microsoft and Oracle. When you apply unlimited budgets to open source, competition can be fierce, and conflicts of interest can arise. It can be challenging to choose the best path forward. Proper research and vigilance are essential for a project’s long-term viability.
  3. Always prepare to take over if an open source project stalls. This flexibility is notorious with small utility programs, as well as projects hampered by issues #1 or #2 above. Be careful not to become too dependent on an outside community. Instead, try to be an integral part of the development group.

It’s all about the community

The idea of users contributing to the success of a software works — and plenty are embracing that idea. Open source technology helps pros spend less time producing their own code, which enables them to work more efficiently. Proprietary software is even dipping into the open source till, entirely reconstructing the face of what “proprietary software” once was.

It’s clear to see that open source is growing more and more prevalent. However, the only way it can truly become the default option is if businesses, developers, and users fully embrace the communal backbone that open source was founded on. The only way that open source technology can truly reach peak performance is if all users do their part in maintaining the code that they are using.


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