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What Open Source is?
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by Dwaraka Nath

Open Source

Open Source ? Hmm... Let me see...I've heard it somewhere. Hey, this shouldn't be something new for a geeky guy out there. Okay. Well, what is that supposed to be? Though, we have several meanings that can be attributed to the term given, we shall talk only about the software related terminology. Trust me, I'll try to make it as simple as it can be.

Yes, The name speaks for itself. Open source is a term, largely used in collaborative software development, where in, the software code is put up publicly for viewing, editing, sharing and re use. Unlike the proprietary software, ( Oops, just in case if you are missing out somewhere, proprietary software is another term for commercial or paid software) in which, the entire software is developed by a particular company, open source software is contributed to, mostly by volunteer community and passionate programmers all over the globe. Some of the popular open source projects are Mozilla Firefox Browser, Fedora and Ubuntu operating systems to name a few.

Where it all begun

Things relating to open source had started say like 40 years back in time. The story goes like this—IBM was making the first generation computers and it was also making the software bundle required to make it work. It was all free to use and re distribute among the users. They could modify the software code pre—installed in it to suit their personal computing needs. The setback came by 1970 and the forecast wasn't blue skies and sunshine after all, because, IBM started to make all its software code proprietary, in the literal sense that, editing of pre—installed software was not possible.

That was when, the real Free Software Movement had begun. Richard Stallman, a programmer from the MIT, had kick started the GNU project, the aim of which was to create an operating system and free softwares which were free to share and edit. On a philosophical side, Richard also wrote that availability of source code and freedom to redistribute and modify software are fundamental rights.

How does it affect me ?

“ Hey, stop ! What am I to do with all this? Does it really matter for me? “ the question most of us would start to think whenever topics like this go on air. I suggest, please rethink. Most of the software we use today are proprietary. Be it anything. Take it with Games, Media players, operating systems, whatever we use today is being paid for. What about, the people who can't afford to? Not all would be willing to pay for a software. Especially in countries where even the very basic amenities is a problem. Who would care to buy that?

We do not see the fact that, this attitude of making proprietary software curbs the creativity and power of so many. Without the basic tools to work with, people all over the globe, from a simple common-man to the bigger scientific community, fail to realize its potential, they fail to see the power of computing and the Web. Imagine what would happen, if the internet that we use today, was proprietary ? The very thought of it, shakes us. The world would come to a standstill. It is the similar effect that using commercial software tries to bring on us !

Things could be so easy, if it is for the free—software.

Open Source always puts- people first. You could modify, edit or create your own software the way you want, the way you want it to work. Its always your choice. Also, when it is for open source, you have a lot of people coming in to help with the code. With more people, there comes more collaboration, more innovation and more creativity. Above all, its totally free !

Also, using proprietary software is one of the major reasons for software piracy. Being deprived of the essential tools for their needs, people tend to use pirated software, which is a loss both to the developer, who loses his investment in the software development and for the user as well, who exposes himself to the greater risks associated with using pirated versions of the software.

Promoting Free software usage and the Open Source movement is something, by means of which, we contribute to the development of people, society and the mankind as a whole, by all means. It is something by which, we try to see the power of Internet, Web and computing thrive for everyone, everywhere !