Is open source software the inevitable future?


Open source software has already shown its potential to improve accessibility, connect developers, and lower costs. Proponents of open source have a long list of benefits they can use to persuade you, and even naysayers are willing to acknowledge the benefits.

But is open source destined to be our future? Can we even imagine an era where open source software is the typical standard?

An overview of open source software and its inevitable future

Let’s start with an overview of open source software. Open source is, for the most part, true to its namesake. An engineer or a team of engineers develops an open source tool or resource that they intend to make it free and publicly accessible.

Individuals or companies can use the software for any purpose. Additionally, a team of contributors may voluntarily optimize the software for improvement, create their own versions of the software, or create new applications based on that software.

Everything can be open source, from project management platforms to conversational AI. As long as it is declared open source, complete projects and code stripes can be easily interchanged and used.

The advantages of open source

There are many advantages of open source, including:

  • Lower costs for users. Open source is completely free for users, which is the most notable and obvious advantage. Your business can pay $ 100 per month per user for a CRM platform created by a major brand, or you can use a very similar open source platform completely free of charge. Which prefer? Cost is just one variable, but it’s important, and if you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars by switching to an open source version of your most essential platforms, you will be motivated to do so.
  • Almost unlimited potential. It has almost limitless potential because open source is the subject of constant attention, scrutiny, and continual modification. Any developer, including project leaders, corporate teams, and lone hobbyists, can tweak the backend, redesign elements, or even rebuild the entire platform from scratch. As a result, any platform could eventually morph into something much, much better.
  • Mutual transparency. Open source provides mutual transparency. The software code is available and can be reviewed by anyone at any time. New enhancements and changes can be reviewed in a similar way (if contributors are willing to share them). This open transparency makes it easy to find faults, errors and other problems, and can give you the certainty that the product you are using is all you need.
  • Community support. Open source projects also tend to attract significant support from the community. Popular open source applications often have entire communities of passionate developers who want to keep the project alive and keep improving at the same time. If you have a problem or if you have a question about how the app works or a potential problem that you have encountered, you can probably post in a forum and get a response from an experienced developer who has worked on this in the past.
  • Continuous advance. Because there is always a thriving community of people contributing to the project, open source applications often see continuous advancement. Bugs are fixed, problems are resolved, and core functionality grows to become more robust. By using the software and updating it as needed, you will be able to enjoy all the new benefits as they become available.
  • Decentralization. Decentralization is another fundamental advantage of open source. Rather than relying on the direction of a single leader or even a single team, the community determines how the application develops. When a large group of people work on a project, it is ideal for generating creative ideas and genuine innovation.

The downsides of open source

However, there are also some disadvantages:

  • Lack of direction. Open source projects are often envisioned as side projects and then delivered to an entire distributed team of coders and visionaries. Decentralization of these types of projects can be an advantage, but also a weakness. If the project doesn’t have much direction or if it suffers from lousy leadership, it could quickly fail.
  • Time requirements. If you want to use an open source platform for your business, you will have to spend some time getting it up to speed. That could mean opening it up to see how it works, redesigning it to fit your needs, or just learning it inside and out. In any case, it often takes more time than simply buying an existing platform.
  • Limited returns for creators. Software developers are motivated by many things, but money is one of the most common motivations. Unfortunately, creating open source software is never profitable (unless you have career opportunities). This makes it difficult to persuade new developers to start their own open source projects.
  • Possible security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, some open source software could also raise security responsibilities. The transparent nature of the backend code enables people to discover security flaws and fix them. Still, if a cybercriminal discovers those flaws first, they could easily take advantage of a large population of users. The threat is compounded because open source software is often implemented with many dependencies, leading to a complex and easy-to-exploit network.
  • No responsibility. No one in charge means no one is responsible for the performance of the software. If you pay for a subscription for software and it stops working properly, you can contact customer service or even escalate the situation for legal action. However, if your open source software stops working, you have nothing (other than community support).
  • No guaranteed support. If you end up with a problem with open source software, your best way to go is to reach out to the community and ask for help. Unfortunately, these community members are not obligated to help you, and you may never get answers to your most pressing questions.

What’s Stopping Open Source From Taking Off?

If balancing the advantages and disadvantages of open source made it universally beneficial, we would expect it to be even broader in scope than it currently has.

So what is stopping open source from taking off?

These are some of the influencing factors:

  • Incentives for earnings. One of the obvious limiting factors here is the profitability potential of open source software. When companies and individuals are incentivized to create revenue-generating software, open source immediately becomes a much lower priority. People are drawn to the highest paying job.
  • Voluntary nature. Open source software is always a totally voluntary project. If nobody wants to create new applications, or if nobody wants to improve existing applications, nothing will be done. The whole system is based on the intrinsic motivation and altruism of the participants.
  • Talent distribution. The most talented developers in the world often want to work with large teams at prestigious firms or make a lot of money. Unfortunately, this creates a talent shortage for open source developers.
  • Persistent attitudes Although the benefits are impressive, some people have negative associations with open source software. They may feel that it is cheap and therefore useless, or they may feel that all open source platforms are simply the product of hobbyist developers. Anyone familiar with open source knows that these attitudes are irrational and baseless, but it’s still challenging to launch a cultural shift that allows them to evolve.

Despite some of these limiting factors, open source remains a popular approach, and will likely become even more popular in the near future. We can even see it grow to eclipse the dominant for-profit models of other software companies.

However, due to its limitations and the persistent negative connotations of the software, it may take decades before it is a mainstream form of programming, if it ever succeeds.

Image Credi: Hebert Santos; Pexels; Thanks!

Timothy carter

Revenue Director

Timothy Carter is the chief revenue officer for the Seattle digital marketing agency. SEO.co, DEV.co Y PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, developing and expanding sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive the growth of websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach, preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TimothyCarter


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