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Open-Source Movement and the Future

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OPEN-SOURCE MOVEMENT AND THE FUTURE
ITSU1003

INTRODUCTION TO OPEN-SOURCE

Generally computer software sources (the human readable version of the software) are of two kinds; closed and open. Open-source programming has been prominently growing in the past ten years. In this model, programmers share their codes freely in order to be modified and used by others. They are allowed to alter and change the original software as much as they like. This in turn will produce higher quality software with improved features. For the open-source programs to be reliable, some sort of licenses has been approved by Open Source Initiative (OSI) which is a “non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the open-source definition for the good of the community, especially through the OSI Certified Open-source software certification mark and program.”

HISTORY OF OPEN-SOURCE
Open-source began to form in the hacker’s society of the United States computer science laboratories such as Stanford and MIT in the late 1960’s. Programmers were members of societies in which each member was expected to share his or her code among the society members. This would apply improvements on different codes by members of the society. In addition, programmers were able to use each other’s knowledge in their own interest mutually.

By the early 1980’s the university hacker societies began to collapse, and the hackers were hired by commercial companies producing proprietary systems (systems that required users to purchase a license in order to use them). Later they resigned their jobs and recreated the hacker societies they enjoyed before. One of the first open-source systems was a Unix compatible operating system named GNU by Richard Stallman.

Open-source software is similar to “free software”, but the open-source users are generally able to view and modify the source code, and they are also allowed to redistribute the software. However open-source does not just mean to access the source code, the distribution of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
1. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software (free redistribution).
2. The program must include the source code as well as compiled form (executable form).
3. The license must allow modifications.
4. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code, but may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
5. The license must not discriminate against any person or group.
6. The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor such as business or genetic research.
7. The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed, without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties (license distribution).
8. License must not be specific to a product.
9. License must not restrict other software.
10. License must be technology-neutral.
These are example of open source software: Wikipedia, Mozilla Firefox, Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice.org
ADVANTAGES OF OPEN-SOURCE

One way to study the advantages of open-source is to study the disadvantages of closed-source. Closed-source programs generally have several fundamental flaws. The internals of the closed-source programs are intentionally hidden from users, preventing them to modify the program to suit their own needs. Companies distributing closed-source programs are able to hide security holes and fundamental flaws from the users, whilst research shows that most commercial software is poorly engineered. On the other hand, with open-source, more people see the code and there’s a higher chance that one recognizes any errors, before it leads to a major problem.

During the development of open-source, in most cases, a group of developers grows around the software. This way, the company has to pay less and of course is much closer to the customers. Since many of the developers are themselves users of the software, they will probably do their best on producing higher quality software. In addition, the market of open-source is much wider since not only richer companies, but also students and smaller businesses are able to afford the free open-sourced software.

Although open-source is weaker comparing with proprietary systems (Microsoft Windows, QuickBooks, ACT! Absolute Banner Manager) regarding money making, there are other different ways of charging people with open-source such as charging for installation and support, or selling other related products with better facilities while still providing people with free ones (this way they are more likely to purchase the products). The fact is that open-source does not mean you cannot sell your product, but it means that you can’t prevent others from selling the same product. This will put a premium on programs with higher qualities regarding competitive advantage and marketing, which forces producers to work harder in order to stay competitive. In terms of security, research has shown that in open-source often there’s less time between the flaw discovery and a patch to fix comparing to closed-source. This is generally because there are more people seeing the code which increases the chance for any errors or flaws to be found sooner. In addition, there’s an argument between open-source and closed-source advocates. Closed-source advocates argue that since there is nobody responsible for open-source software, there is no incentive or guarantee that it will be fixed, while open-source advocates argue that since the source code of closed-source software is not available, there is no way to know what security or fundamental issues the software have.

Despite the fact that there are many pros of open-source software; many people disagree with all that open source software has to offer. The first con is the issue of cost. This topic is one that the activists use to promote OSS, and there isn't much in the way of argument in the fact that OSS is cheaper; mainly because it doesn't have to be free, but most programs are. Although most of this software is free, some users prefer to pay an initial cost so they can take advantage of the service or other elements that might create a value in the user's mind. A huge advocate of OSS is the educational system. Their costs could be lowered tremendously if software was free to download – especially at a mass rate. People who are anti-open source fear there is not a huge compatibility with software and computer brands such as Linux. This would cause a person to have to purchase certain computers or software so there is compatibility between systems. In this sense there is an argument for the higher long-term costs of OSS.
Second con arises when discussing open source software is the topic of OSS being network friendly. Advocates claim OSS is quite networkable and according to NETC.org, more than half the World Wide Web runs on Apache, which is an open source solution. The argument for those against OSS brings us back to the cost argument, that it is not compatible with all other networks and therefore is more expensive to operate.
Along with low-cost and being network friendly, OSS provides the opportunity to customize software to peoples' needs. Proprietary software is designed for a specific intent and is not customizable to a person's needs. Thus, people who are pro-OSS argue this type of software is worth its weight in gold, as it can be used to fit a very specific personal or business niche without the extremely high cost of the same type of highly specialized proprietary software.
In an article by Walt Scacchi, there is another issue introduced which consists of government use of open source software. According to Scacchi, "Open government seeks to open information for public sharing, discussion, review, ongoing development and refinement, and unrestricted reproduction (replication and redistribution) the "source code" of the products and processes of the business of government." This is a much debated issue as people are mainly concerned with privacy if the government elected to use open source software. Advocates say that open source software from government agencies will allow the public to become more informed about the system, processes, downfalls or shortcoming, and what aspects are being done accurately and effectively by the government.

OPEN-SOURCE LICENSE

License and liability is a must for any distributed software. Without a license, there’s no guarantee for the program’s liability, and if there are any flaws, no one will be responsible for that by law. Therefore, OSI (Open Source Initiative) is responsible for issuing any needed open-source license. Programs with the OSI license are known to be reliable, secure and conformed to the definition of open-source. This firm has a framework in which any software requiring a license must fit. OSI has a set of already approved licenses which software producers may use if their software fits them; otherwise OSI will issue a new license under which the software could be distributed (if the software is reliable and conformed to the definition of open-source). Programs approved with any of the OSI licenses are required to somehow inform users that their software is OSI Certified. They can either just right “OSI Certified” (text certification mark) or use the graphic certification mark. Using these marks for software that is not distributed under an OSI approved license is prohibited and against law. You can see the OSI graphic certification mark in the picture below.

CONCLUSION

Open-source idea has always been around since the late 1960’s and it has never failed. It’s been growing for ages and now it has become valuable in the world of programming and software production. With open-source not only people are involved in coding and improvement, but the product comes out with higher quality and the ability to better suit people’s needs. With open-source, companies are able to improve their products greatly and they can highly increase their market share. Open-source production is more rapid and therefore saves time. Open-source is getting stronger and there will come a day that proprietary software will lose its value and market among users. The fact that a Linux server (which is open-sourced) is now more popular than a windows server significantly supports this theory.
REFERENCE
Open-source movement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2016. Open-source movement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_movement. [Accessed 22 April 2016].
Open-source software - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2016. Open-source software - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software. [Accessed 22 April 2016].
Overview of the Open-Source Movement. 2016. Overview of the Open-Source Movement. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~l38613dw/readings/OpenSourceOverview.html. [Accessed 22 April 2016].
History of the Open Source Movement | Piktochart Infographic Editor . 2016. History of the Open Source Movement | Piktochart Infographic Editor . [ONLINE] Available at: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2385023-history-of-the-open-source-movem. [Accessed 22 April 2016].

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