Difference between Free & Open Source
OSS has often been confused with Free Software and hence many businesses had relegated it as anti-commercial in the past. It however is not so. The differences lay in the philosophy behind each type. While Free Software is based around an ethical question, open source software is more of a practical question. Free Software Movement considers non-free software as a social problem. Both the versions basically try to work on the same problem with different fields of emphasis. While the Free Software arguments work well on a hacker’s level, Open Source’s arguments seem to work on company level. Though OSS derives many of its values from free software, it also allows more flexibility by allowing licenses which is considered restrictive to the users in case of Free Software. This does not mean that free software means something a user might get on zero price but means software which gives certain freedoms to the user, similar to OSS.
Open Source v/s Closed Source
OSS has been in direct competition with the Proprietary software which is ‘Closed Source’. In case of the OSS, the user gains the right to grant the license further, whereas in case of a closed source, he merely gets the right to use it. The source code of closed source software is considered to be a trade secret and money is made with each copy sold. On the other hand, OSS may be distributed freely, but the support services may be chargeable. The Closed Source group presses the point that OSS is available for exploitation to people with malicious intent. To counter this, Open Source supporters argue that this also opens up the software for rapid patching whereas in case of closed source, the security is through obscurity which is also prone to failures.
The licensing theory of OSS lays out that when the author develops the code, he automatically owns the copyright of that work and also the right to grant a license. When he grants the license to somebody, he is actually granting permission to use his copyrights. In case of violation, the licensee might just own a copy of the work and hold no copyright to distribute or modify it. The contribution of code to a project may be under explicit licensing like the Apache Contributor License Agreement or implicit like the open source license. Some examples out of more than 1400 unique licenses include GNU GPL, MIT License, Eclipse Public License, Mozilla Public License etc.
With so many licenses in the market, it is often very difficult to understand the bindings and liberties provided in each license while choosing the right kind of license. There isn’t any guarantee that the project reaches a deployable stage, it is quite possible that it dies out before. Mozilla Firefox is a vague example of uncertainty as it took more than a year to build the first beta. This happens specially when there is no firm backing behind the project. There are issues related with intellectual properties, since most countries do not consider algorithms for patents. Though some countries have started making reforms in this matter and also the open source community has started addressing this issue with patches which disable patented code. There isn’t much publicity or advertising for the open source projects that are not being funded. There are only a few aggregation points for open source software that too are either known to only a few or are too specific. Yet, these are considered disadvantages only when compared against the structured format of development of proprietary software.
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