The Philosophy of Open Source

Open-source software has changed the applications marketplace as well as instigating a philosophy that is affecting all areas of society. Open source software upholds the ideal that source code should be available for anyone to easily view, alter, enhance, and re-distribute any portion of that code without paying for it. Open source projects are usually community-based projects done by programmers who donate their time and expertise to create a product that they have identified as needed for the marketplace, whether or not there is a perceived monetary profit involved. Although open source is not the same as free, oftentimes many of these products retain some applications based on open source code remain as free downloads and others move on to become proprietary, or a combination of both free and proprietary versions.

Open source can be seen more as a community-based philosophy than a way to build code. The Internet itself is based on an open source philosophy that does not hide how it works and took a number of people to implement. Open source is just a different way of looking at how to provide service to a community with the ideal that the basic underlying code or workings should be allowed to be viewed by anyone and used in whatever fashion they deem works for them. This is different than most major companies that view their source code as proprietary and do not make it available for other programmers to modify in totality. Microsoft, for example, gives programmers the use of API calls that allow a programmer to tie into some portions of proprietary code and use it but not modify it.

What Software Is Open Source?

Netscape’s first Internet browser, Mozilla, was released as open source software. This is in direct contrast to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer with is proprietary. Now, Firefox is also available as another open source browser option versus Internet Explorer. Linux, another one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors is open source. Linux is a unix-like server system that provides a platform for many web-based applications. In combination with Apache, another open source software product, anyone with enough knowledge can put up a web server for free without paying royalties to Microsoft. Open source is particularly valuable to companies who must pay for a license for each server or workstation they own if using a proprietary product. Moving to open source becomes an immediate cost-savings and much of the programming is self-supported by numerous developers who help to maintain and keep the code functioning at optimum levels. Bug fixes are quickly posted and distributed to the communities involved in promoting open source codes.

Did You Know Blogging Communities Promote Open Source Philosophy?

Even if they aren’t on drupal, another open source application for content management and discussion groups, bloggers themselves can be considered open source. The reasons are simple. They exhibit the following open source characteristics:

1. They contribute to the community their time and expertise in areas in which they are often not compensated monetarily.
2. When they are reporting first-hand accounts, they are “exposing source code” for all other bloggers to comment, enhance, and re-distribute.
3. They can take their own source code, blogs, and sell them to paid establishments or promote them for free, however they choose.

Is Open Source The End of Intellectual Copyrights?

The philosophy of open source does affect intellectual copyrights in that its main premise is to allow copying, modification, and enhancement of original source code without penalty. However, the two philosophies of open sharing and proprietary ownership can exist side by side. Creativecommons.org is a website that issue multiple types of licenses on source content that aren’t based strictly on exclusivity or royalty-based. It offers the owner of original material to promote their work with a number of different options including:

Attribution

In attribution rights, the original owner allows the copying, modification, and re-distribution of their material without payment only if they are given credit for being the originator of the material.

Non-commercial

The original author of a work can allow the distribution of their work for non-profit use only.

Using creativecommons.org licensing structure a producer of web content can retain some of their rights without demanding royalties should someone desire to use it elsewhere. This is a benefit to many authors, photographers, web artists, and the like who want to promote their work without losing their rights to sell it later for profit. This helps them to establish a greater exposure for their work. Content buyers like it because they can identify the originator of the work but sometimes do not have to pay for its use.

Open source is definitely a philosophy that is coming of age. With it, as a society we are exploring the ideal of community creative projects versus individual rights to an intellectual work. It remains to be seen how this concept expands our notions of morality, justice, and ownership into something more inclusive with benefits for all and not just those experts who hold keys to proprietary knowledge.

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