Open Source vs Proprietary Software

In this article, I want to do some jargon-busting for people that are newer to the software field and want to understand the buzzwords.

We'll delve into two major software categories – open source and proprietary – to determine their benefits, drawbacks, and applications.

Open Source Software (OSS)

Open Source Software (often abbreviated to "OSS") is software for which the source code is made available to the general public for use and modification.

This openness fosters a collaborative environment, inviting users to view, use, change, and distribute the software as they see fit.

Maybe you've already used some open-source software without knowing it's "open source", famous examples include Linux, Mozilla Firefox, WordPress, and MySQL.

Proprietary Software

Proprietary Software (or sometimes when in the context of open-source is referred to as "closed source"), on the other hand, is software owned by an individual or a company (usually the one that developed it).

The source code is not made publicly available, and the software's use, distribution, and modification are restricted and generally require licensing agreements.

Renowned examples include Microsoft Windows, Adobe Creative Suite, SAP, and Apple's iOS.

The Differences Between Open Source and Proprietary Software

The main differences between open source and proprietary software lie in the accessibility of the source code, licensing conditions, cost, user rights, support, and the community surrounding each type of software.

  • Source Code Accessibility: In OSS, the source code is openly accessible, while in proprietary software, the source code is a closely guarded secret.
  • Licensing Conditions: OSS generally has more liberal licensing conditions, usually encouraging modification and distribution. Proprietary software typically has strict licensing rules that limit its use and distribution.
  • Cost: OSS is typically free or significantly cheaper than proprietary software.
  • Support and Community: OSS often relies on a community for support, whereas proprietary software usually has dedicated, professional support teams.

Since I advocate for open-source, I am a little biased in my preferences when choosing open-source or proprietary software.

But the choice between open source and proprietary software often hinges on several factors: budget, specific requirements, available support, and the technical skill of the user. OSS can offer cost-effective, flexible tools but might require more technical acumen to use and maintain.

Proprietary software is often more user-friendly and professionally supported but may be expensive compared to open-source alternatives.

Follow me on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

🚨 Want to make friends and learn from peers? You can join our free web developer community here. 🎉

Open SourceBeginner
Avatar for Niall Maher

Written by Niall Maher

Founder of Codú - The web developer community! I've worked in nearly every corner of technology businesses; Lead Developer, Software Architect, Product Manager, CTO and now happily a Founder.


Fetching comments

Hey! 👋

Got something to say?

or to leave a comment.