What Is Open Source? What Are the Benefits?

Software can be a complex subject. With endless terminology to learn, it can all seem a bit much. But one term which is well worth getting your head around is ‘open source’. This type of software is growing in popularity and for good reason.

In this article, we explore open source software and why it deserves your attention.

What Is Open Source Software?

Understanding the concept of open-source software is pretty easy. But first, you need to understand what is meant by the term 'source code'.

Source code is a collection of ‘code’ that is written using a human-readable programming language. The source code will show a human how a particular piece of software, application or website has been created. Typically, source code is hidden, so potential competitors cannot see the ‘secret sauce’ for potentially valuable digital assets.

So, open source software is simply software where the source code can be viewed, modified and enhanced by anyone. This means that programmers, regardless of who they are, can apply their knowledge and expertise to developing a better or bespoke version of the software. It also allows them to make any required fixes.

Open source software has been around for a long time. For example, popular software including Mozilla Firefox, Linux and LibreOffice are all open source. In more recent years the benefits of open source have become more apparent, leading to more software being created using an open source approach.

Open Source Software vs Other Software

In the last section, we explored what open source software is. But how does that actually differ from other types of software?

Even though open source software is growing in popularity, the majority of software takes the opposite approach. This is usually called proprietary or closed source software. With these types of software it is usually only the person, team or business that created the software that can view or edit the source code.

The source code is also often protected by law. This means that even IF someone external to the organisation could edit it, they could be breaking the law if they decided to do so.

Businesses typically chose to take a closed source approach as it allows them to stop their competitors from stealing their ideas and stops people from editing the code in a way which could negatively impact software users. 

Open source allows users to view and edit the course code. However, the creator of the open source software will also typically ask those who want to access the code to accept a user agreement. This agreement may put restrictions on which parts or how the code can be accessed and edited. However, user agreements on open source software typically allow for relatively unlimited access.

Benefits of Open Source Software

The benefits of open source software are huge. In this section, we explore some of the biggest benefits…

Access Talent

By opening up software's source code to anyone you are able to tap into a huge range of programming talent. Not only can this help you iron out potential bugs in your software, but it can also help you identify these bugs much more quicker than if you only have a small number of individuals working to review the code. 

Greater Flexibility

Taking an open source approach can allow the software to be better tailored to individual needs. For example, an open source ERP software like Odoo can be developed over time to meet the unique needs of individual businesses.

In turn, this means that businesses can benefit from moving more of their processes onto software that helps manage cross-business functionality.

Cost Effective

When a closed-source approach to software is taken you limit yourself to updates and edits to that software only being able to be made by in-house developers. This can increase costs, as in-house programmers are likely to be on a salary, meaning all updates and edits cost through time invested.

Open source can be much more cost-effective. Firstly, this is because it allows the development to either be conducted by programmers that are working on it in their spare time (for free) or for updates to be outsourced to somewhere where wages are lower.

From a user perspective, open source allows you to tailor the software to individual needs, rather than having to pay for multiple software tools to achieve one purpose.


It is clear that open source is an unusual approach to creating software. However, with clear benefits to this approach, it is no surprise that we are seeing it become more common. Not only is open source beneficial to the original creator and programmers, but it also offers huge benefits to end users.

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