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What Is Open Source Software?

bsoyka profile image Ben Soyka Originally published at Medium ・2 min read

Open source software is software that anyone can inspect, change, and share with others.

Code is the part of a program that most users don’t have to see. It shows how the program functions, like a recipe.

When someone makes their code open source, they are letting anyone take a look at it and make changes.


What’s the difference from other types of software?

Some other software is more restricted. This is typically called proprietary or closed-source software.

A couple examples of this are Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. Both of these were made by separate companies, and their code isn’t shared with the world for anyone to see.

Different programs can also come with different licenses. The license for a program determines how — or if — people can use, share, or change the code.


How can open source software help?

Open source software can help in a myriad of ways. Here are a few:

Control over function

Since users can see and change how the program works, they can have more control over how it works.

Learning new skills

Contributing to open source projects is a great way for beginning programmers to learn more skills and get more experience.

More secure

When anyone has the ability to spot a bug in the code, any issues can be resolved very quickly. It’s like having hundreds more eyes inspecting your code to make sure it runs smoothly.

Build a community

This one may not seem as important, but larger open source projects start to build up a community of contributors over time. Contributors can talk about parts of the project in a friendly manner, making discussions much more productive and smooth.


Isn’t open source software just free of charge?

This is a common misconception about open source software. While open source software is free most of the time, people can make their code cost money too.

It all depends on the license chosen for a piece of software. If the license says that anyone can modify and use the program in private, then they can do that.


Where can I find open source software on the web?

One of the largest websites where you can find open source programs is GitHub. You can also take a look at GitLab to name a couple.

GitHub provides hosting for projects using Git for version control. Git keeps track of all changes in a set of files and helps with managing both small and large projects.


Overall, open source software can make a huge difference in how programmers create and share their code. By sharing code with others, you can improve it and make it better than it ever was before.

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