What makes open source software development so powerful?

By  Vinny Stocker

In a nutshell, open source software development is essentially made to be free for possible modification and redistribution, which means that users or members of the community can design extensions, applications, integrations, add-ons and additional content to compliment the main product. Plenty of people are not aware of this but open source software has a huge following.

What exactly is it that piques people’s interest in the open source approach? Could it be the empowering potential of communal cooperation? Could it be the improved transparency in workflow or the numerous opportunities present in such a seamlessly effective structure?  Open source is common among individuals as well as businesses. Whether they know it or not, a large number of people depend on open source software development every day in some form or another.

The world’s most common smartphone operating system, Android, is based on Linux. Cars, smart thermostats, and a host of other connected devices are all powered by open source technology. You may believe that you’ve never used open source software before if you’re new to the world of open source. The fact is, open source is all around us, and you might be using it without even knowing it. Do you, for example, use Firefox or Chrome as your web browser? If that’s the case, you’re using tools from well-known open source projects. If you’re conducting LMS training for your employees using online learning platforms such as Moodle, that’s an open source Learning Management System (LMS).

Since open source is free, the organisation can save money and time by creating the required software or parts of the product from the ground up. This is especially important for startups who are constantly looking for ways to save money and are often compelled to pivot their products. Many more benefits, however, encourage businesses to turn to open source every year.

Personal motivations

Learn to code: Learning to code via open source is a fantastic way to get started. Do you want to learn more about how your favourite website works? Clicking “view source” in your web browser will help you find what you’re looking for. You can read the documentation for the program that runs it and even set up your clone. Do you want to know more? Join a local meetup for the framework or language you’re interested in. Better still, send a pull request to the project to correct a minor flaw or add a new feature. Although there are time and opportunity costs, none of this comes at a direct cost to the aspiring developer, at least not in terms of apps, and is much more inclusive than doing so within a closed group, particularly as an outsider.  

Open source offers control

If nothing else, open source software can grant organisations a deeper level of control over the way their systems function. Conventional, licensed software often consists of fixed offerings and rigid functionalities that are difficult to bypass or replace. In many instances, a piece of software might be near perfect and ready to use, except for a few unwanted components that you might want to exclude. Open source alternatives are renowned for flexibility and personalisation in the sense that you can remove what isn’t necessary, leave whatever is good to go and add whatever might help enhance the usability and effectiveness of your software.  

Open source software development is fast

The majority of software projects aim to release updates regularly. In this regard, however, the open source community was ahead of the curve. Starting early in their history, platforms like Linux were able to achieve extremely fast release cycles. Today, open source growth continues to outpace that of closed-source systems in some situations. Microsoft Windows users, for example, must wait years for new updates, while most big Linux distributions release new versions many times a year.

Code is company independent

Another advantage of open source is that software is no longer tied to a single entity. When a company directly supports a piece of software and that company goes out of business, the software goes with it. For open source, this is not the case. If an open source software company goes out of business, the code can still be used by anyone, and if the license allows it, another company or group can take over and maintain the project. Open source software development isn’t tied to a single company, rather, it’s free technology that everyone can use and extend.

Paid Support

Even though open source software always comes with a wealth of documentation, wiki pages, newsgroups, and a vibrant community, you may wish to make implementation as painless as possible. This is where you can hire someone to do the work for you. As compared to proprietary tools, open source software support is surprisingly more receptive, as it is often the only way to monetise open source projects, and it is also often less expensive.

Again, paid support will patch bugs faster, assist you with unique issues, and demonstrate that the company is concerned about the quality of the open source software they are willing to support and maintain. For these reasons, open source systems grant many advantages over their closed source counterparts, whether it be for an LMS platform or other intricate systems that need to be built. If you need help with your open source Moodle based LMS, drop us a line. Pukunui offers a vast array of services from LMS hosting and training to support, design and consulting.

Vinny Stocker

Vinny leads the Malaysian team. He's a published author, instructional designer, and Moodle consultant at Pukunui. Vinny also runs LMS training throughout South East Asia.

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