Open source software is software with source code that everyone can control, modify, and improve. In a broader sense, it is an idea of unlimited access to the software’s source code. The free software movement was started by an American organization called Open Source Initiative, established in 1998. The group, interested in such systems, introduced a new marketing name and presented the program as a company-friendly, free competition for Microsoft. The software at the time concerned Linux systems and the Netscape browser. Eric Steven Raymond, an American hacker, and a libertarian is recognized as one of the main founders of open source. His most famous work is “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, which describes how to create open source software. It is based on his observations of the development of the Linux kernel and the experience of coordinating the open-source project called Fetch Mail.
Developers acquire knowledge about new technologies, improve their skills, as well as get help from more experienced ones, and are inspired by the achievements of others.
An open source project is also a great way to find people who will critically look at your code and perform a code review. Every junior developer will confirm how important for one’s development is for an experienced person to critically assess your code during code review. Thanks to it, you have a chance to improve your skills.
The coolest thing about open source is that everyone can contribute something to the project, thanks to which the resultant code is much better than in a situation if only one person wrote it. What’s more, thanks to participation in an open source project, you can gain popularity and recognition among other programmers. When the software is created by more people, it’s easier and faster to catch and correct errors. Thanks to the diversity of the team involved in the software’s improvement, experienced developers can help fix the most-advanced problems, while novices can deal with seemingly simpler but time-consuming fixes. Open communication is nowadays a basis for efficient work in development teams. In a team, obviously, decisions should be made through discussion and agreement. The ability to present your ideas/needs/arguments in a clear and legible way is very important here.
The essence of open source is that everyone has access to the shared application and can contribute something to it. Independent implementation of a project from A to Z can be a source of great satisfaction, but it can also take a lot of time, and bugs will not be avoided. Thanks to the cooperation of many programmers, it is easier to catch errors in the software and the final product is usually of much better quality than if it was created by one person.
The open source idea unites people who are jointly involved in this group. It is thanks to it that you can integrate more with the community gathered around the technology in which you program. There is even talk of the open source philosophy or ideology, thanks to which the IT world can become better. And there is something to it. Isn’t it a generous idea of a combined something that everyone will have access to and be able to use freely? Imagine this situation: Every day you use a tool that greatly facilitates your work and you like using it. One day, however, you come across an error or you need additional functionality. You can implement the functionality or fix errors. Pleasant and useful, right?
Participation in such initiatives is a new challenge, and thus an opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills. Thanks to open source, you will quickly find out what you are doing wrong and how to implement individual improvements. It’s also a big plus for your career. It is a kind of a modern portfolio, confirming your skills and commitment. It’s no secret that platforms that allow developers to share code (such as GitHub) are also a mine of information for recruiters who are searching for IT talents. More and more events are being created to promote the initiative for programmers participating in open source projects. Participants have the opportunity to take part in Hackathon and Hacktoberfest.
Opponents of open source projects believe that they contain a lot of bugs and its target users are easy prey for hackers. According to them, open source projects are characterized by a lack of professionalism and adequate protection of confidential data. For open source projects, code readability is a very important aspect for the community. It facilitates its further modification and speeds up the process of searching for errors. The source code is publicly available, the community analyzes it with very high accuracy. Errors are immediately detected and corrected. For this reason, the reliability of open source applications is very high compared to closed programs, whose code is accessible only to its creators.
A popular myth is that sharing your knowledge for free results in a decrease in the value of the programmer’s work. The open source society attracts intelligent, knowledge-hungry programmers. Open source developers are enthusiasts who also have solid knowledge. They often work in commercial projects, and their value on the labor market increases due to new experience and skills.
Another myth is that open source products are not regularly developed. It is worth remembering that control over the development of the most popular open source systems is exercised by large companies working on their software in exactly the same way as producers of closed applications. Regular updates (including security) and new features are released. In recent years, large corporations have shown a significant increase in spending on open source products.
There are many opinions that open source does not offer professional technical support (only the community of a given project can help the user) and there is no guarantee that the project will not be suddenly abandoned. Large corporations that take care of the project provide technical support for users at a very high level. Currently, the popularity of open source is so high that in the case of products that are very popular, there is no problem finding a company that could continue its development. After all, the source code is available.
By using open code, projects can grow faster and more efficiently. Applications are not written from scratch – they are based on ready-made libraries, thanks to which technologies are developing faster than ever. The development of open software is headed towards new products and markets in order to create an unrivaled level of innovation, and more importantly, open source is widely used in popular programs of major manufacturers.
Open source is currently one of the strongest trends in programming. The commercial sector also benefits. Open source libraries are already used almost everywhere and it is practically impossible to find a program that does not have open source elements. According to The Forrester Wave™ Software Composition Analysis, Q1 2017, modern applications contain 80% to 90% of open source code.
Apple has released the source code of the Swift programming language it is developing. A part of the iOS operating system code is publicly available, while Android is released under an open license. Google has made TensorFlow code available to everyone as an open source library. Mozilla Corporation releases the open source Mozilla Firefox free of charge. Even Microsoft, a company that was very skeptical of open source in the past, has indeed become the largest contributor to open source and joined the Linux Foundation as a platinum member. Microsoft also released .Net Framework under an open source.
Given the growing interest of major technology companies, I am convinced that open source is not just a temporary trend – it is the future of programming.