Is open source software an inevitable future?

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Open source software has already proven its potential to improve accessibility, connect developers with each other and reduce costs. Supporters of open source have a long list of advantages that they can use to persuade you, and even opponents are ready to recognize the advantages.

But is open source destined to be our future? Can we even imagine an era in which open source software is the typical standard?

A Brief About Open Source Software and Their Inevitable Future

Let’s start with a brief description of open source software. Open source is, for the most part, true to its namesake. An engineer or a team of engineers develops an open source tool or resource that aims to make it free and accessible to the public.

Individuals or businesses can use the software for any purpose. In addition, a team of contributors may voluntarily optimize the software to improve it, create their own versions of the software or create new applications with this software as a basis.

Everything can be open source, from project management platforms to conversational AI. As long as it is declared open source, entire projects and pieces of code can be easily exchanged and used.

The advantages of open source

Open source has many advantages, including:

  • Reduced costs for users. Open source is completely free for users, which is the most notable and obvious benefit. Your business can pay $ 100 per month per user for a CRM platform created by a big brand, or you can use a very similar open source platform for free. Which do you prefer? Cost is just one variable, but it’s important – and if you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars by switching to an open source version of your most essential platforms, you’ll be motivated to do so.
  • Almost unlimited potential. It has almost limitless potential as open source receives constant attention, scrutiny, and tinkering. Any developer, including project managers, corporate teams, and hobbyist solo developers, can modify the backend, redesign elements, or even rebuild the entire platform from scratch. As a result, any platform could possibly turn into something good, much better.
  • Mutual transparency. Open source offers mutual transparency. The software code is readily available and can be viewed by anyone at any time. New improvements and changes can be reviewed in the same way (if contributors are willing to share them). This open transparency makes it easy to find flaws, bugs, and other issues – and can give you the confidence that the product you’re using is all you need.
  • Community support. Open source projects also tend to attract significant support from the community. Popular open source applications usually have entire communities of passionate developers who want to keep the project alive and keep improving it at the same time. If you run into a problem or have a question about how the app works or a potential issue that you found, you can probably post to a forum and get a response from a seasoned developer who has worked on it in the past. .
  • Continuous advancement. Because there is always a thriving community of people contributing to the project, open source applications often see continuous progress. Bugs are fixed, problems are resolved, and core functionality expands to be more robust. If you use the software and update it as necessary, you will take advantage of all the new benefits as they become available.
  • Decentralization. Decentralization is another key advantage of open source. Instead of depending on the direction of a single leader or even a single team, the community shapes app development. When a large number of people are working on a project, it is great for generating creative ideas and real innovation.

The disadvantages of open source

However, there are also a few drawbacks:

  • Lack of orientation. Open source projects are often thought of as a side project and then handed over to a whole distributed team of coders and visionaries. Decentralization of this type of project can be an advantage, but it can also be a weakness. If the project doesn’t have much direction or suffers from lousy leadership, it could quickly fizzle out.
  • Time requirements. If you want to use an open source platform for your business, you will need to spend some time upgrading it. This could mean opening it up to see how it works, redesigning it to suit your needs, or just learning it inside and out. Either way, it often takes longer than just buying an existing platform.
  • Limited profitability for creators. Software developers are motivated by a lot of things, but money is one of the most common motivations. Unfortunately, building open source software is never profitable (unless you figure in the career opportunities). This makes it difficult to persuade new developers to start their own open source projects.
  • Potential security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, some open source software can also pose security concerns. The transparent nature of the backend code allows users to discover security holes and fix them. Yet if a cybercriminal discovers these flaws first, they could easily take advantage of a large user population. The threat is exacerbated because open source software is often implemented with many dependencies, which leads to a complex and easily exploitable network.
  • No liability. Responsible person means that no one is responsible for the performance of the software. If you pay a subscription for software and it no longer works well, you can contact customer service or even escalate the situation to take legal action. However, if your open source software stops working, you have nothing (other than community support).
  • No guaranteed support. If you are having a problem with the open source software, your best solution is to contact the community and ask for help. Unfortunately, these community members are under no obligation to help you – and you may never get your most pressing questions answered.

What is preventing Open Source from taking off?

If the balance of pros and cons of open source made it universally beneficial, we would expect it to have even wider reach than it currently has.

So what’s stopping open source from taking off?

Here are some of the influencing factors:

  • Profit incentives. One of the obvious limiting factors here is the profit potential of open source software. When businesses and individuals are incentivized to create revenue-generating software, open source immediately becomes a much lower priority. People are drawn to the most profitable work.
  • Voluntary character. Free software is always a completely voluntary project. If no one wants to create new apps, or if no one wants to improve existing apps, nothing will be done. The whole system is built on the intrinsic motivation – and altruism of the participants.
  • Distribution of talents. The world’s most talented developers often want to work with big teams at prestigious companies or make a lot of money. Unfortunately, this creates a talent shortage for open source developers.
  • Persistent attitudes. While the benefits are impressive, some people have negative associations with open source software. They may feel like it’s cheap and therefore unnecessary, or they may feel like all open source platforms are just the product of hobbyist developers. Anyone who knows open source knows that these attitudes are irrational and unfounded, but it’s always difficult to initiate a cultural change that allows them to evolve.

Despite some of these limiting factors, open source remains a popular approach – and it will likely become even more popular in the near future. We might even see it grow to eclipse the dominant for-profit models of other software companies.

However, due to its limitations and software’s lingering negative connotations, it may be decades before it becomes a mainstream form of programming – if it ever does.

Image credit: Hébert Santos; Pexels; Thank you!

Timothy carter

Director of Revenue

Timothy Carter is the Director of Revenue for Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent over 20 years in the SEO and digital marketing world, leading, creating and evolving sales operations, helping businesses increase revenue efficiency and drive website and team growth. of sale. When not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running and spending time with his wife and family on the beach, preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TimothyCarter


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