5 Great Things About Open Source
Open source software has been around for decades and has revolutionized the world of software development. It has transformed communities and changed the direction of technologies. There are numerous reasons to love open source, and here are a few things that we personally appreciate about it. To celebrate and delve deeper into the world of open source, we’re excited to announce our upcoming event in London; for more details, check out Open Source Day London.
One of the most significant advantages of open source software is transparency. Open source software source code is freely available to anyone, which promotes greater transparency and accountability in the software development process. This can be particularly important for organizations that need to ensure that their software meets certain standards or regulations. With open source software, developers can easily perform external audits and achieve certifications and compliance.
Open source software promotes collaboration and community involvement. Because the source code is freely available, developers from all over the world can contribute to the software’s development. This allows for a wider range of perspectives and expertise, which can help to improve the quality of the software.
Open source software development communities are often very supportive and inclusive, providing opportunities for developers to learn and grow. They offer forums, chat rooms, and wikis where developers can discuss the software, report bugs, and share ideas.
Many iconic OSS projects were created by the collaboration of engineers from companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Red Hat, and others.
For example, GNOME and KDE environments were created by contributors from Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical. Mozilla Firefox was one of the first open source browsers. PostgreSQL was originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley, but has since received contributions from many different companies like Red Hat, Fujitsu, and Citus Data.
With access to the source code, users can customize open source software to fit their specific needs. This means that the software can be tailored to meet the unique requirements of any organization or individual. This makes open source software a more flexible and adaptable option than proprietary software.
For instance, if a company needs software to perform specific tasks, they can customize open source software to meet their needs. They can add new features or modify existing ones to fit their unique requirements. A prime example of this is Supabase, an open source real-time database that has integrated pgvector to add vector database capabilities. This enabled advanced operations like similarity search and nearest-neighbor queries, crucial for machine learning and data science. This example illustrates how open source software, like Supabase, can be customized to address unique business challenges, making operations more effective.
Because the code is open and available for review, security vulnerabilities can be identified and addressed more quickly. This often makes open source software a more secure option than proprietary software, which may have vulnerabilities that are not discovered until after they have been exploited.
Open source software is typically reviewed by a large community of developers, who are constantly looking for and fixing security issues. This means that vulnerabilities can be identified and addressed quickly, reducing the risk of a security breach.
For example, some of the biggest security vulnerabilities were found and fixed by the open source community:
- Heartbleed Bug in OpenSSL (2014)
- Shellshock in Bash (2014)
- Dirty COW in Linux Kernel (2016)
- EternalBlue Exploit and SambaCry (2017)
- Node.js Event-Stream Incident (2018)
- jQuery File Upload Vulnerability (2018)
- Bootstrap XSS Vulnerability (2019)
- sudo Vulnerability (2021)
In addition, numerous open source projects are dedicated to enhancing security throughout the software ecosystem. A good example is Infisical, which actively works on providing security solutions and improvements. Such projects further demonstrate the open source community’s commitment to a safer and more secure digital environment.
Open source software is often free to use. This makes it an affordable option for individuals and organizations that may not have the budget to invest in proprietary software. Even when there are costs associated with using open source software, they are typically much lower than the costs associated with proprietary software.
Moreover, open source software can help businesses save money in other ways. For example, they can avoid vendor lock-in by using open source software. Vendor lock-in occurs when a company becomes dependent on a particular vendor for its software needs. This can be costly, as vendors often charge high fees for their services. Open source software, on the other hand, is not tied to any vendor, so businesses can switch to other providers if they need to.
For instance, the city of Munich switched from proprietary software to Linux and other open source alternatives in a project called LiMux. While there were costs associated with the transition, the project claimed to have saved tens of millions of euros by avoiding licensing fees. Similarly, NYSE reportedly uses a customized version of Red Hat Linux for its electronic trading, achieving low latency and high reliability without relying on more expensive proprietary real-time operating systems.
Open source software provides users with the transparency they need and supports developers in their careers. It also enables maintainers to run projects more smoothly and even leaves notes for future generations.
Of course, to all project maintainers: consider opening up your code.
As we have noted separately, building a successful business often demands a nuanced progression away from pure open source distribution models. That doesn’t change the fact that we see the power in choosing open source software and supporting your favorite projects so they can continue to grow and make the world a better place.