An Introduction to Open Source Development

An Introduction to Open Source Development


Published on: 31 Jul 2015

By Vinod Subbaiah

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Here we are discussing about Open source Development. How far would you believe if I say that computer software and literary works are similar, at least in one solid way? Nope, it’s not a philosophical type of perspective. They both share a common factor, which has been resulted from the very material perspective of intellectual property rights. Computer software and its related materials are treated by the copyright law just as a class of literary work and are protected as such.

And when it comes to the ownership of computer software, it actually involves ‘properties’ – in plural – including the written source code, the design stuff, user interface, etc. But the key element has always been the source code. Of course, it is always considered as the heart and soul of the computer software, which it is.

So, whoever owns the source code of the software can alone add to, modify, use or distribute as and if he/she wishes. Others, purchase it if available (or) develop their own ones. The problem here in purchasing such copyrighted software was that the cost of purchase, installation and maintenance was high, and the level of utility always depended upon the service provided by the copyright owner. In other words, businesses needed to shell out some good money for this software and always need to expect the hands of the software provider for anything related to software.

And there came a solution for this where everyone who uses the software also owns it. It means, the right to use, distribute, modify and redistribute the source code was shared to everyone who uses it, and it is called ‘Open Source’.

The revolution offered a great relief for the users not from the cost perspective alone. There was much more to it.

  • The software was available for free and was downloadable.
  • Anyone was able to download and use it without any fear of copyright infringements.
  • Anyone was able to modify the source code, customize it to his or her needs and use it as they wish.
  • Anyone was able to release their own modified version of the software and distribute it to anyone else.

All that sounds techie and legal? To put in terms of raw benefits,

  • Businesses could test an open source software without investing a penny on it.
  • With the source code readily available for free, customizing the software in-house was perfectly feasible.
  • No more waiting on a ‘provider’ for software updates.
  • With the increasingly contributing user community, the softwares came up with frequent updates.
  • The users were not bound by any agreement that restricts the use and distribution of the software.

What more can any business ask for when it has software that offers excellent everyday productivity. And wouldn’t it help the business’ long-term strategies?

Vinod Subbaiah Vinod Subbaiah