Planning to Leverage Open Source? Go Ahead! Here’s Why

Answering the most asked questions while building on an open-source code. Will it be up to the mark? Is it really free? What are the legal issues?

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Open source is a great option to build your projects on, but there are always a few questions and doubts that may deter people from exploring it. It is predicted that the open-source service market will grow at a CAGR 18.2 percent between 2021-26 and is expected to reach USD 50 billion by 2026. Here are answers to some questions that one just always has while using open source.

Will it be up to the mark?

While working on an open-source code, it is quite natural to have doubts regarding quality. There is a fear of building your whole project on freely available code. At such a time, it is essential to remember that while you are working with an open-source code, there can be over a hundred developers who are working on the same code too. In terms of quality and security – the more the eyes, the less chance of it having any issues. The core principle of open joint developments is that the issues and vulnerabilities are not hidden from any participant and are even fixed faster. With these, it is easier to fix your code by just implementing a new patch.

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Participating in open source projects is also considered a bold move. The person’s work is subjected to criticism and analysis and brings their reputation at stake, and no one wants to lose it. Making and leveraging open source is not just limited to SMBs. Many large technology companies like IBM and Google have open-source departments. The specialists who work on open-source projects in-directly work for the company. In fact, open-source projects boast of a global community of developers who have improved product quality and resolved bug issues. Google’s Android is the biggest example of a company that bases an enormous portion of its business on it.

Be it small or large, all companies are using more and contributing more to the open-source community.

Is it free?

Yes, open-source is free. But that doesn’t mean that it does not cost money. Like any other solution, the price of the software has always been a small fraction of the total costs. It is essential to consider the total costs of the project before implementing it. Surely, as deployment expands there aren’t any requirements for additional licenses. Every deployment can have a different cost, including the cost of services and time in installation and development.

It is also essential to consider that cost is not the reason why open source is preferred. Instead, the defining character of an open-source solution is the ability to access the source code of the software.

Many companies also give away some software for free. But this doesn’t mean it is equal to open source. If commercial software is free, it mostly allows you to use it for the purposes that have been made available. One cannot redistribute or have the right to modify – like they do in open source. GitHub too, does have a lot of projects without an open-source licence and are public. But, commercial companies do not have the right to modify or redistribute them. The absence of a licence means that default copyright laws apply to it.

Open source components come with some terms and conditions that one must comply with to avoid any business and legal risks. The open-source initiative has identified over 100 licences that may apply to using open source globally. It is essential to pick the correct one and comply. Apache, BSD, MIT and GPL are the most widely used licenses, but it is any day great to check out the others if they solve the purpose better.

Yes, the software is unique, and it is essential to understand the difference between copyright and patent. Copyrights in a project protect the source code and the unique expression, while a patent protects the innovation or the functionality that has been built using it. Patents, hence become far more valuable than the codes and copyrights. The code can be written in any language and can be a base for multiple functions, but it is essential to patent your innovation. If you plan to patent, ensure that the code’s copyright and licence do not clash and are not restrictive.

Open source boosts innovation and makes the technology industry grow faster. Exploring open source leads to improved productivity, more learning, and it does result in the positive growth of the software.

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Meeta Ramnani
Meeta has completed PGD in Business Journalism from IIJNM, Bangalore. She comes with over six years of experience in journalism and writes about emerging enterprise technologies with a focus on digital transformation. She loves to go on bike rides and stays in touch with nature. Contact: meeta.ramnani@analyticsindiamag.com

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