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Open source, open source. What is open-source software?

My dear mentor at HOTOSM, Kshitij explained this to me using a food I like, which is pasta and I would like to share it.

Open-source software is any software whose make-up(source code) is available for anyone to see and contribute. Like pasta, anyone can make it. You can make it however you like. You can add different ingredients to it which can be likened to adding features to open source software.

Being open-source doesn’t mean free. Open-source software is not synonymous with free software. Let’s hit it home with pasta. That anyone can make pasta doesn’t mean that pasta will be free. Cooking pasta costs me effort and resources, and I could charge for that. Likewise, it is the same for software, it could be open-source but not free.

If however, I have a restaurant where anyone can come in to help cook pasta to distribute freely to people, that is what you will call Free and Open-source pasta. This is mostly the case with most open-source projects Do a quick check. Check if your favourite applications are open-source and appreciate the community behind them.

How about proprietary software? Think about your favourite restaurant to eat pasta. I assume you don’t know how to make it taste like theirs, as you don’t have their recipe. You can’t walk in there to add ingredients to it while they cook because you are not a chef at the restaurant. That is the opposite of open-source. You can’t access the make-up(source code) and you can not add to it. Proprietary software can either be paid or free. Just as your favourite restaurant can either charge you for their pasta or give it to you for free (winks).

I hope this short explanation was worth your read. Let me know.


Comment from qeef on 11 June 2024 at 10:25

Well, not exactly. Free software is usually understood in the meaning of the freedom, not as free beer.

Let me elaborate on your pasta example: you have a community of pasta enthusiasts who try to discover the perfect pasta, making significant progress, but still missing the last ingredient. Then, any restaurant can take your’s community open-source recipe, put the last ingredient, kept that last ingredient secret, and start selling their pasta.

How is that possible? Well, open-source licenses do not care about the freedom of the restaurant customers, particularly about the freedom of knowing what is inside their favorite pasta.

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