What is Open-Source Software and How Has it Grown?

Open-Source Software, Software Development Industry

What is Open-Source Software and How Has it Grown?

December 19, 2014 by
Copywriter at Clearcode

WordPress, Linux, Piwik, FireFox, OpenOffice, VLC – what do all of these have in common?

They are all examples of open-source software and systems. Open-source is shaping the software and application market, and with tens of thousands of new projects being created every year, you are bound to come across more of them in the very near future.

What is Open-Source Software?

The term “open-source” frequently occurs in the tech and software industries. One of the most common comparisons is between closed operating systems like Microsoft’s and Apple’s and the open-source equivalent, Linux. The main difference between these systems is the availability of the source code.

  • The source code of open-source software is made available through a license that provides users and developers certain copyright and usage rights. Most licenses allow users and developers to study, change, and distribute the software. For developers especially, this freedom enables them to utilize the code in their software-development projects and to customize it to suit specific uses. At the same time, developers contribute to the software itself (fixing bugs, adding features, etc.) and provide valuable feedback to the lead developers to improve the application or system and make it more secure, feature-packed and user-friendly.

    On the other hand, the source code of closed software (a.k.a. proprietary or non-free software) is completely unavailable to both users and developers. These licenses impose a range of copyright and usage rights onto the users, preventing them from copying and distributing the software and limiting the number of computers it can be installed on. Usually, the source code of closed software is compiled, making it readable only by the computer’s CPU and therefore restricting the developers from viewing, studying, and changing the source code.

    How Has Open-Source Software Grown?

    What once was a closed-software-dominated industry, open-source is now conquering almost every business area, from the individual bloggers creating content-rich websites with CMS like WordPress, through to large enterprises and governments utilizing an open-source web-analytics service for their business analysis. Open-source is now more widely available than ever before and is being applied and embraced by users, developers, and companies alike.

    To put the rise of open-source software into perspective, let’s look at a few facts:

    250,000 open-source projects in 2006 vs. over 5 million in 2014.

    The number-one hangout for members of the open-source community would have to be GitHub. This web-based Git-repository hosting service contains over 5 million open-source projects, allowing developers to study, learn, and contribute to a range of new and innovative projects. While GitHub is the largest code host in the world, there are many other open-source projects currently being undertaken within IT departments and on an individual developer basis.

  • Linux has over 13,000 contributors.

    Linux is a popular open-source operating system that is constantly being downloaded onto PCs and large-enterprise servers and systems. While using the system requires a bit of technical knowledge and skill, it provides enormous benefits to both individuals and companies. System updates are always available (usually on a daily basis) thanks to the contributors regularly adding new features, fixing bugs, and strengthening security.

    40% increase in organizations using open-source software.

    Since 1998, the percentage of organizations using open-source systems has increased from 10% to 50%. With the continuous introduction of new open-source projects offering better security and additional features, this number is sure to get to even higher in the coming years.

  • 35.1% of the open-source software market is occupied by governments.

    The fact that governments own the largest majority of this section of the market highlights the many business advantages open-source systems offers, including massive cost reductions, higher security features, and more advanced functionality.

    Due to the massive advantages open-source software provides users, developers and companies, the open-source movement is one of the fastest growing areas in the information technology industry today.

    To learn more about Clearcode’s contributions to the open-source community, please click here.

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