Open Source vs Closed Source Software: What's the Difference?

Xiaobai Software  2022-05-30 12: 30  read 132 views

Everything you see on the screen is made up of language.Someone somewhere wrote down words for your computer to understand.These words, the language, are called codes.

In order for our computer to know what to do, it needs to understand these codes.If it understands, it can act.However, in order for us to understand what our computers are actually doing, we also need to read the code.

Open source software lets you see the code.Closed source software does not.So, what types of software are these two and why do both methods exist?


What is open source software?

Free open source software is software where you can not only freely use a program, but also view, edit, and share its source code.

Source code is the code that a person (or, in some cases, a computer) types when creating a program.This is different from binary code, which is the actual language used by computers.When programmers finish writing a program, they compile the source code into a binary program.

Humans know how to read source code.Computers know how to read binary code.

When someone distributes a program, they usually provide you with a binary that you can run on your computer.This program is not free and open source unless they also provide you with the source code and allow you to use both files freely.

What is closed source software?


Closed source software refers to software with limited use, mainly because the source code cannot be seen.You only have access to binary files.

Closed source software is also known as proprietary software.This is because software developers view source code as private, proprietary information.In their view, giving anyone access to this code is tantamount to giving others a competitive advantage: the ability to freely copy and edit a program without having to hire a developer or team of developers to do the same job .

Unless you grew up with Linux, most software you are familiar with is likely closed source.This type of software is more profitable, making it attractive to both small app developers and giant corporations.

Another obvious sign is whether you need to agree to the End User License Agreement or EULA the first time you use the program.

EULA and Free Software License

Computers are not like most tools.It doesn't matter that you can move the mouse or stroke the touchpad.You can press buttons on the keyboard or look at the screen is necessary, but again not the point.

What matters is the code.Code can be modified.Code can be copied.There are no inherent restrictions on someone's ability to patch and copy code.Computer makers don't have to ask you not to copy your laptop, because that's simply not something most people can do.However, copying and redistributing software on a computer isn't particularly difficult, so that's what a restrictive EULA does.

EULAs are often huge walls of text describing in legal terms what you can and cannot do with the software you're about to use.They usually prevent you from viewing the code, consider copying illegal, require you to purchase a license or activation key, and usually detail ways to use the software in violation of the terms of service.

Free software licenses don't require your contractual consent, but tell you that, in most cases, you can do whatever you want with the program and its code.Some free licenses, like the GNU General Public License, are considered free to copy.Their main restriction on what you can do is to require that any program you develop using code under the GPL is also available under the GPL license.

Other licenses, such as the MIT License, are considered permissive licenses and do not come with this requirement.If you want, you can take the MIT-licensed code and use it to create proprietary programs.

how does this affect you

The license of the software you use determines what you can do on your computer.

If a proprietary program has a bug, or you want it to function in a certain way, your only recourse is to inform the software developers and hope they can do something about it.With free software, if you have technical knowledge, you are free to make changes yourself.Many times, even with your lack of understanding of the code, there's a good chance someone online wants to do the same thing, or notice the same problem, and provide instructions on how to tweak the program.

But the vast majority of people have no desire to read code or modify programs.So, does this mean that the problem doesn't affect most people?Hard to say.There are a few major areas of growing interest where closed source software and open source software treat you very differently:

1. Cost

Open Source Software: Almost always free for you to use without paying anything.

Closed source software: more likely to spend money.When proprietary software is offered for free, there is often a risk.Developers and publishers often monetize the program in different ways, whether by displaying ads, tracking your behavior, sneaking unwanted (and sometimes malicious) software onto your computer, or a combination of all three some combination.

2. privacy

Open Source Software: Usually the most privacy-respecting software you can use.If someone tries to share an open source program that violates your privacy, others will notice and share a copy, and all tracking will be removed.The risk of controversy and reputational damage is often enough to prevent developers from collecting even the basic diagnostic data considered commonplace in proprietary software.

Closed source software: Keep track of how you use the program.On mobile devices, apps often pay close attention to your location and other apps you have installed on your phone.Some people will look at your contact list or scan your files.

3. Security

Open Source Software: Benefit from the fact that many eyes can see the code.While this doesn't guarantee that many people did see the code when the exploit was exploited, anyone with the skills can provide a fix and you can confirm that the problem has been fixed.

Closed source software: Closed source software often relies on a security model called security through obscurity.This doesn't stop bad actors from finding vulnerabilities and creating exploits.If the software developer makes you aware of these vulnerabilities, since you can't see the program's code, you can't be sure that the problem has been fixed.

4. Update

Open source software: Updates can take longer to arrive because software development often relies on volunteers.On the other hand, applications and distributions tend to support hardware for years, even decades.

Closed-source software: Sometimes arrives faster because there is usually a group of employees working on the project full-time.However, software support can end abruptly when a company goes out of business or decides that a piece of software is no longer profitable.The new version is unlikely to run on older hardware.

Which software should you use?

Most computers you'll find in big box stores come with closed-source software, as do cell phones.More tech-savvy people can replace their locked-down operating system with an open alternative.For others, it's still relatively easy to buy a Linux-powered laptop online or download an open-source application for any operating system.

However, free and open source software do not have the same level of funding and are generally provided "as is".While it's more than sufficient for many, if not most, use cases, there are other cases where the best tools for the job are only available in proprietary form.

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