Open Source software has been responsible for several innovations in the tech world, including the Linux operating system and Mozilla Firefox browser, to name just a couple. Today, open source software is being considered as more and more of a valuable asset to companies.
Open source software allows for complete collaboration to occur. Because this type of software allows anyone in information technology to dissect, examine and alter a product's source code, anyone can distribute their own version for sale and profit. The ability for such freedom in source code manipulation is what has allowed many companies to continuously improve their products, a move that's vital if the goal is to compete in the marketplace. But as with everything, open source has two sides, positive and negative.
For users of this widely used technology, the ability to download and use software at no cost is a big positive. Open source software developers do not feel the same pressure to profit as those working with larger corporations. Therefore, improvements made to their code can be more focused towards what each user may need, and less to what will appeal to the mass market.
The benefit to developers is that more time can be spent on the improvement of existing software. This can mean much less risk for bugs, as time can be taken in solving issues before the software is released to the market instead of being quickly altered for stability prior to release.
Open source software can be installed numerous times and in numerous locations without the need for tracking or monitoring, such as is typically the case with licensed software. This is a definite benefit for companies.
And, this type of software can continue its existence even if the company who created it fails, as it can then become a part of the user and developer community to manipulate as they see fit.
Competition is a definite con of open source. Because everyone can have access to the code, including developers, competing products can easily be created. As well, since the code is public, any mistakes made by developers can be as well, meaning a developer's reputation can quickly become tarnished.
In some cases, open source software may require specialized operating knowledge by the user. One good example is the Linux operating system, which requires much more than navigating menus and choosing options to configure. A user without this knowledge may also find no help in the software documentation, which can be vague if it exists at all.
And although it's largely offered at no cost, this does not necessarily mean that open source is completely free to develop or to use. Situations can rise which may require paid administration and support costs to be submitted.
Ultimately, it is the end-user who will judge the usefulness of the free technology. Therefore, every benefit and disadvantage should be carefully made when trying to make the decision of switching to open source.