The World is Moving Towards Open Source Software
Open source software has been around for some time now. When it first came out, open source software was perceived as risky and immature. However, with the passage of time, more and more companies started developing and building upon open source. A couple of great open source examples that have been pioneering the industry for a while now are Drupal CMS and Linux OS.
What is Open Source Software?
So, what exactly is open source software? Well, open source describes the type of software that has no proprietary license attached to it. Instead, it's published with a license that guarantees the software will forever be free to download, distribute, and use. This also means that unlike proprietary software, the code can be inspected by anybody. On top of that, if somebody wants to customize the code to their needs by changing it, they are free to do it.
Proprietary software is often the exact opposite. The code of proprietary software cannot be copied and distributed freely, modifications to the code are also prohibited, in case there are issues arising, you cannot fix them by yourself. You have to rely on the software vendor to fix the problem for you.
Open source has its set of advantages as well as its disadvantages.
Advantages of Open Source Software
So, you might wonder what are the specific advantages of open source as opposed to software with a proprietary license. Here are some advantages:
Flexibility: Open source software is known for having great flexibility. The great flexibility is granted by the fact that the code is open. Thus, people are able to customize it to their needs.
Speed: Competition in the digital era is fiercer than ever before. One of the defining factors that are dictating the success of a company over its competition is the speed of innovation. Luckily, the companies that are using open source software know that open source facilitates speed. By not having to deal with the bureaucracy that comes when dealing with proprietary software, everything can be set-up to be working in a fast and reliable way.
Cost efficiency: Another trump card in the arsenal of open source software is the cost efficiency provided. Open source can be used by anyone free of charge because it is registered under the GNU General Public License which basically ensures that if somebody is using open source software, then they also have to make the code available for other people to be able to use it. Successful open source communities leverage the power of the community by providing good infrastructure for the community to share and review software extensions and improvements.
Security: Proprietary software has had a reputation of being more secure than the open source counterpart. Part of this was due to the popular belief that if the source code is hidden from the public, then hackers will have a harder time cracking it. However, this is far from the truth. The code for open source software is available for everybody to see, which, in turn, could make it more vulnerable. However, because of the fact that everyone has access to it, it is easier to peer review the code. In this way, people will be able to spot vulnerabilities way easier than with proprietary code, making it easier for developers to fix said vulnerabilities.
Disadvantages of Open Source Software
Now that we’ve talked about the advantages of open source, we should also discuss its shortcomings.
Not user-friendly: A common problem with open source projects is a lack of focus on design and user-friendliness. People might have a harder time being able to adapt to the interface of an open source software compared to competing proprietary platforms. Of course, this is not true for all open source projects, but it is common to see that well-funded companies are better able to attract and afford the best designers.
Hidden costs: Although open source software is hailed to be free to use, it actually is not. When adopting new software for a business, a decision maker also has to take into account different factors. For example, it is easy to overlook the cost of setting up and customizing the software for the company, paying for the training of the employees or hiring skilled personnel that is able to actually operate the software. Even if the adoption is not for business use, a time investment still has to be made in order to properly be able to use the software to its full potential.
Lackluster support: When it comes to proprietary software, there are often dedicated departments that are ready to help a struggling user with their issues. In contrast, most open source software does not enjoy the same level of support. However, open source tends to gather dedicated communities around it that can be helpful in solving some issues. However, it’s good to keep in mind that these people are not paid for their service and might not be able to solve all the issues that are arising.
Orphan Software: Proprietary software can enjoy a longer lifespan than their open source counterparts. One of the risks of using OSS is that the community or developers or both lose interest in the project or move on to another project. What this means is that the software will stop being developed supported. The users of the software will be left high and dry and will have to migrate to another platform. Of course, there are also plenty of commercial software projects that go out of business, but strong commercial backing does increase confidence in the continuity of the software. Some open source projects have loosely associated commercial backing. Like Redhat backing Linux and Acquia backing Drupal.
Tech Giants buy Open Source Software Companies
Lately, more and more tech giants are willing to start having some presence on the open source market. A couple of these examples are IBM, AT&T and Microsoft.
IBM acquires Red Hat
On 28 October 2018, IBM acquired Red Hat for $34 billion, a gargantuan amount of money. The aim of this acquisition is for IBM to shape the cloud and open source market for the years to come. IBM is betting a lot of money on this acquisition, in order to secure a lead on the market. However, there are some skeptics of this acquisition. They claim that IBM is going to ruin the Red Hat culture, as it was proven by their track record until now, kind of like some sort of corporate colonization. Only time will tell how this acquisition is going to shape the future of open source software. Nevertheless, the willingness of IBM to dish out so much money proves that open source software is seriously a path of the future.
AT&T acquires AlienVault
AlienVault is a developer of an open source solution that manages cyber attacks. It includes the Open Threat Exchange which is the world's largest crowd-sourced computer security platform. It was acquired by AT&T on August 22 in 2018. Since then it was renamed from AlienVault to AT&T Cybersecurity. With the high reach and resources of AT&T, former AlienVault is sure to have a bigger impact on the cyber safety of the world. However, this acquisition sparked a lot of controversies, mainly with some supporters of AlienVault claiming that this is the end for the brand. Well, this is true since the company was renamed to AT&T Cybersecurity. However, time will tell if there are going to be more radical changes to their business model under the ownership of AT&T.
Acquia acquires Mautic
With the acquisition of the open source marketing automation tool Mautic on 8 May 2019, Acquia is aiming to strengthen its presence on the open source software scene. Together with Mautic, Acquia is going to deliver the only open source solution to proprietary alternatives, expanding on Acquia's vision to deliver the industry's first Open Digital Experience Platform. On top of that, unlike the other two companies, Acquia has a strong open source culture, making the acquisition of Mautic a well-thought business decision.
Apps, Plug-ins, and Services: When Open Source Mingles With Closed Source Software
Android, Google, and Huawei
Android is an open source operating system for mobile phones. Formally, it is known as the AOSP (Android Open Source Project). It is a project developed by Google. The OS is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices. It is licensed under Apache 2.0 which makes it possible for users to modify and distribute modifications if they choose to. Even so, in the recent case of the U.S. ban of Huawei, Google announced the new trade embargo forced them to retract Huawei's Android license. Now, since Android is open source, the OS itself is still free to use. However, practically all Android devices outside of China come with Google services and apps pre-installed. These Google apps play an important role in any Android device. Google can do this since apps like Google Maps, Youtube, Gmail and Play Store, etc. are not open source and companies need a license agreement in order to have them on their device. The Google play store is also a paid service, it provides security checks and code validation for app updates. This forms a very important security layer on the Android platform.
To add insult to injury, losing the partnership with Google means Huawei will not get timely security updates to the AOSP Android Platform. When Google fixes vulnerabilities, they will first send out their fix to partners, and after partners have had time to publish the update to their devices the patch will become public. This means Huawei's devices will have increased exposure to hackers and viruses before the security patch is published and pushed to Huawei devices.
Sooperthemes: Providing and Supporting Paid Drupal Extensions
Here at Sooperthemes, we are passionate about the Drupal project. We want to see Drupal thrive and become better than its competitors. In order to do that, we had to find out what are the areas in which Drupal can be improved. As it turns out, there was a strong need for Drupal to be easier to navigate and to use in site-building for users who are in a marketing or communication department and do not have deep technical knowledge. That's why Sooperthemes has developed Glazed Builder. Glazed Builder is a powerful visual page-builder that anyone can use, without needing to write, or see any code. With Glazed Builder, Sooperthemes wants to give accessibility to the power of Drupal to a wider audience and to make it easy for them to build, maintain, and grow a Drupal-based website.
Although other open source platforms like Android, WordPress, and even Linux OS have had a thriving ecosystem of paid applications and plugins for many years, the same cannot be said for Drupal. Fortunately, with our 13+ years of experience in the Drupal community, we were able to create a combination of product and service that thrives in the Drupal community.
As it can be seen by the latest trends, open source seems to be here to stay and to become the staple of software in the near future. This prediction is based not only on the benefits that open source software is bringing but also by the amount of interest that major companies in the tech world are showing towards open source software. The most successful recipe seems to be a mix of open source platform and paid-for applications. The paid-for applications are especially handy for components that require more involvement from marketing and UX design experts, who are not typical contributors in open source software communities.