Open Source Software (OSS) has gained considerable importance in the software industry with extensive development and is now being widely accepted as a new model of business. The open source model is far more acceptable today due to the decreased degree of defects and errors as compared to proprietary software.
Open source software, as the name suggests, allows accessibility to source code of a software program in order to make modifications to the software. Issues surrounding accessibility involves drafting licensing of the software in a manner which allows access to the source code. Whereas, in proprietary software the source code is not shared, viewed and modified. All modifications are done by the software developer as per the licensing agreement. Users of the proprietary software are required to purchase any upgrades of the existing software from the author of the software, as users are prohibited from copying, distributing, and modifying the software.
Although deviations have altered the arrangement between a vendor and customer of proprietary software, users are allowed to view and modify the source code without distributing it others. An example would be Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative (SSI) which allows the user to adapt its proprietary software as per their requirement by allowing them to make modifications in the source code.
A major point of difference between open source and proprietary software is the element of usability. OSS not reviewed by professional testers does not cater to a greater audience. Users generally discuss issues associated with an OSS in forums, online communities having fine documentation, news groups, and even live chats to review and modify the code base as against the proprietary software.
Enhanced Targeting of Customers
Users of open source software act both as the innovator and user.The software is targeted on the users and proprietary software, whose users and developers, are different so user requirements and expectation from the software might not be gauged correctly. Open source software allows for greater customization.
OSS versions are released regularly and come free of cost. Proprietary software versions are released from time to time and needs to be bought. Highly priced compulsory virus protection, up-gradation expenses, support expense, and vendor-lockin involves high technology cost to a business opting for proprietary model.
Open source software is better in sticking to open standards in relation to other businesses, computers, users, and is not restricted to the proprietary data formats.
OSS enables high levels of innovation by a large number of skilled people who can make modifications in source code for improved performance as per user demands and requirements. Proprietary software involves huge costs on research and development by a restricted number of developers writing the code. The team size might change with fresh applicants who may or may not have the capability to completely understand and write the particular code with the same level of efficiency.
Due to the organizational nature, proprietary software is developed by a team of developers with a common goal in a restricted environment. The source code is accessible only to the team members who can modify the source code as per the requirements. This lowers the chances of error and bug penetration in the source code considerably. The level of security for the software against viruses is quite high in a proprietary model. With the OSS model, software is developed in a controlled situation, in a non-continuous structure, without a single objective and without communication between software developers. Lack of validation increases the possibility of virus.
However, there is a flip side. In open source software, a lot of people can access and view the code source, thereby making the possibility of bug detection quite certain.Quoting Linus Torvalds, founder of LINUX, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. OSS allows a lot more people to view and test the code thereby making flaw detection and fixing quite viable. Bugs detected in open source are fixed quicker. Developers of proprietary software on the other hand, might take weeks or even months to track a flaw and patch it up.
More companies are adopting the OSS model which has led to drastic reduction in technology costs, making OSS a feasible option for many small and medium sized enterprises, who can have Live CD’s and USB’s for LINUX software distribution.
Many large companies such as IBM and HP are considering open source software and the trends are going to spread at a faster rate for other companies too.
There has been a shift from the proprietary software model to open source software model, giving some serious competition to proprietary software makers. As for the open source software, just having enhanced view would not prove to be sufficient, even open source requires better tools for gauging defects effectively by users.