The “Hive Mind” Effect
When dealing with closed source software, only the team developing that product can make changes to the code; usually, software development teams are limited to a few dozen programmers at best. However, because open source code is viewable, editable, and sharable for all programmers, the entire open source community can test the code and eliminate bugs. This usually allows for more stable releases, streamlined improvements, and a larger, more diverse pool of testers. Websites like GitHub, StackOverflow, and CodePlex allow users to easily host their code and have it reviewed by other users.
Many believe that open source code is less secure — and in theory, that makes sense. After all, if any user can see how a program was built, wouldn’t that program be easier to hack? In reality, programs, websites, and companies that need to be audited by the government for security often use open source code, such as Java, Python, and AJAX. Because open source code allows for more in-depth review, developers are more likely to flag and fix security issues, resulting in stronger cyber security for all.
A Library of Open Source Code
Because open source code is accessible to all, there are repositories of well-tested, flexible, secure code available to developers for all kinds of projects. In other words, if a piece of open source code can be used for a program or modified to fit a need, programmers won’t have to build it from scratch — instead, they’ll have a stronger starting point. Furthermore, because many sites offer open source code for free, open source projects tend to be considerably more affordable than closed source projects.
Code Sharing Doesn’t Mean “Free Apps”
One of the most common misconceptions of open source developments is that the programs or applications built on open source code must be free. While Linux is a free open source operating system, and code used to build freeware is often open source, a great deal of money can be made by offering proprietary software as a complement to open source products. For example, the Google Play store has millions of paid apps that are built to be compatible with the open source Android OS. Another method of making money is offering “freemium” content, where the initial app download is free, but the extended content that constitutes its full use comes at a fee.