Open Source vs. Closed Source

David Wippel

David Wippel

software development

opensource

Wondering what the differences between open or closed source software are? We've got you covered.

In this insight, we're going to talk about just what the two are, what pros, cons, and risks come with each, why doing your due diligence is key, and ultimately why we'd always opt for open source.

What is closed source?

Closed source refers to software whereby the code can only be accessed by the original creators/company who owns the software. No one outside can freely access the software's source code or change that source code.

So ultimately, what you get is what you take, you don't know what goes on behind the scenes. You also don't have the freedom to take the software and edit it to suit your company's needs. Closed source is owned by an individual or corporation that typically hires developers to run, improve, and further develop the software.

Closed source software examples

Some common examples of closed source software many companies use include:

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Google Suite
  • Skype

What is open source?

Open source is software that everyone can access and use freely. Anyone who wishes to can access the code and suggest changes to improve it. It's based on building a community where developers contribute because from improving the software they benefit — and so does everyone else. Writing open source software is often related to receiving recognition within the developer community. Think of it as the Wikipedia of development — anyone can contribute.

The most predominant advantage of open source is that it's available to the entire world; it's constantly evolving and being updated.

Examples of open source software

Some great examples of popular open source software projects include:

  • Hasura
  • Linux
  • Android
  • Open office
  • Firefox

Closed source vs. open source: pros and cons

Both open source and closed source have pros and cons; we're gonna cover them all, focusing on pricing, security, quality of customer service, and degree of innovation.

Pricing

Closed source software is always a paid option, and prices vary hugely. If you rely on closed source software, it can sometimes happen that they can charge whatever they want, and you'll pay it because your processes evolve around it — which is not a great position to be in if you ask us.

Because you have a community of developers contributing to it rather than a corporation controlling it — open source software is often free, but it's becoming more frequent that you are required to pay a licensing fee for certain features. This is not necessarily a bad thing because this monetary incentive ensures that the owners of the open source projects keep the project open and running for the public.

Security

Security is a topic that we're often confronted with, and it's something everyone is hugely concerned about nowadays — which they should be.

The issue with closed source software is that you're relying on the software issuer to fix the bug if something breaks. Which can often take weeks, months, or just go overlooked. This can be incredibly frustrating and, in some cases, detrimental to your business.

On the other hand, anyone can view the code and fix the bug when it comes to open source software, so when you have downtime — you (or someone else from the community) can do something about it rather than wait on a corporation to react.

Quality of customer service

Closed source software often has a dedicated customer service team whose sole job is to take care of your questions and queries.

On the other hand, open source solely relies on community forums and other users to fix issues — which is all the more reason why choosing just any open source software can be very risky. So, you need to do your due diligence and ensure a strong community behind your open source software before you implement it into your business.

Innovation and development

If you think about it, who's gonna be faster and have more ideas? A bunch of 79 engineers stuck in a building in Silicon Valley or thousands of developers scattered around the world. More people, more locations — more perspective. This is why open source is known for being at the forefront of innovation; ideas spread like wildfire, and anyone can implement them. Ultimately, open source has brought about an entirely new way of working.

Ultimately, we're huge advocates of open source software here at TRIGO. We've been using it to develop custom software for our clients for over a decade now. But that advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

You need to do your due diligence and verify that the project is not only suited to your needs, but has a solid foundation that will ensure you can benefit from it in the long run. You need to know what tech stack exactly is used, what the infrastructure looks like, who's behind it, whether any companies are invested in it, and much more.

If you're currently struggling with an open vs. closed source decision — we frequently deliver software audits for our clients to help make that decision.  Interested in finding out more? Feel free to drop our CEO David an email at david@trigodev.com, and continue the convo there.**

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