The freedom of Open source not always for free

Open source software gives freedom but is not necessarily for free

I was not aware of the fact that a lot of people have different opinions about the meaning of open source software. But you can find all kind of strange presumptions about open source. Although open source software gives a lot of freedom, it is not necessarily for free. Time to clarify. And please correct me if I am wrong.

Many people still relate open source software to PHP, Linux and free software. Lately also Java is very often added. In my opinion this is not what open source is about. I would rather say that open source means “freedom”. Freedom to learn. Freedom to change. Freedom to choose.

I really love the way the Dutch government tries to give open source a real chance. Already some years ago the Dutch government started an open source initiative to try to replace as much software as possible by open source software once new software had to be selected.

According to (not only) their definition open source means the following:

  • The source code of the software is public available.
  • Within the license model the intellectual property rights and (re)using the software and the related source code have been arranged in such a way that the license buyer can see, use, improve, build upon and distribute the source code.

The Open Source Initiative has well defined when software is allowed to be called “Open Source”. But in fact it means that you:

  • Can use the application without a license fee for every purpose.
  • Have access to the source code to study and change it.
  • Have the freedom to redistribute copies
  • Can improve the application and make this improvement public available.

But once again this does not mean that the development and the maintenance of the code are for free.

The basic idea is that this way of cooperation between parties will lead to better software without discussion about the property rights. And in a lot of cases this is working very well. Because of this way of cooperation a lot of successful open source applications have been developed. Another important advantage of open source is that you can more easily switch your supplier when you are no longer satisfied. A vendor lock-in can be prevented.

Open source is for sure no longer only related to Linux and PHP. First of all it is free to every developer to use f.e. the Microsoft .NET framework to write an application. He will be able to call it open source software if the above mentioned rules apply. Besides even Microsoft is moving towards open source. Among others recently a CMS has been published, Oxite, and the .NET blogging platform Subtext also has shown its potential. MonoRail is a very good example of  an open source technology for .NET development.

Apart from CMS and blogging applications also business applications like ERP and CRM are available as open source solutions. The implementation of such solutions is rather complex. Therefore, a lot of companies are offering their services for implementation, maintenance and customization.

Although these services are not for free, you may expect that the investment in general will be a lot less than buying a “closed source” solution. And you get a lot of freedom included!

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