There are no copyright limitations for open-source software (OSS), which means anybody may read the program’s source code and modify it.
The source code is the core component of all computer programmes and pieces of software. Code written by programmers in plain text is known as “source code,” “source programme,” “source file,” or simply “source.”
All programmes and software are built based on their source code, which defines their behaviour. To provide one example, the source code of a web page tells a browser how to display various elements such as pictures, text, fonts, links, and colours.
Because programmers may alter the source code, most computer users will never see the source file. It all depends on how open or proprietary the code is.
The source code of proprietary or closed software is a copyright-protected document that is only available to the company or individual who produced it. This means that it cannot be used, copied, modified, or distributed by anyone else.
Open source, on the other hand, refers to software that is freely available to the whole population. If the source code of a programme or piece of software is made freely available, experienced programmers can use it for whatever purpose they like. However, if you don’t want to get involved with the original creators, then you may obtain the source code and use it as a starting point for your software.
How Long Has Open Source Software Been Around?
The software wasn’t as advanced as it is now in the 1950s. During this period, elite software engineers worked at corporate research labs, where they created software that was packaged with hardware for sale.
When software got more complicated and expensive to build in the 1960s, developers realised they had to isolate it from the operating system and offer it as a distinct product.
These firms, including Microsoft and Apple, jumped on this bandwagon in the 1970s. These businesses flourished on software licencing sales, which necessitated the signing of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs).
It was a long time ago that the concept of open-source software was widely accepted. Corporations, such as Microsoft, were so hostile to this idea in the late 1970s that they viewed it as un-American and a danger to intellectual property rights.
Solves ‘Injustice’ of Private Firmware with Faulty Printer
Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS), a computer specialist recognised for popularising the notion of the CopyLeft License, was the first to popularise open-source software. RMS worked as a programmer at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AI Lab) in the late 1970s.
The university’s departments all used the same outdated printer. In the meantime, traffic was backed up while the printer was being repaired because of the frequent paper jams. This was a major nuisance, given that the printer was shared by several people. Stallman goes on to say that the printer, which was located on a different level, only served to exacerbate the situation.
When there was a paper jam, RMS produced a piece of software that informed everyone waiting to use the printer so that they could get their work done.
The Xerox Corporation donated a brand-new Xerox 9700 copy machine to MIT in 1980. The new printer was lightning-fast, slashing printing time by an astounding 90%. However, Xerox notified Stallman that the source code was proprietary when he tried to add the social hack function to warn its users of a jam.
Later, he learned that Carnegie Mellon University possessed a copy of the Xerox driver on their computer network.. When he went to borrow the code from a Xerox lab, they informed him that they had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the company.
Afraid of the ‘blatant selfishness,” Stallman imagined a future without proprietary software’s restrictions and discomfort.
As Stallman points out in Free Software: Freedom and Cooperation, a computer programme is akin to an ingredient list. It’s only normal for programmers to make alterations to the code to make it more suitable for their specific purposes.
The Free Software Foundation was born out of this. Nevertheless, Stallman was well aware of the necessity of creating an operating system that could only be used with free software. The operating system needed to be compatible with Unix, which was widely used at the time, so that users could simply migrate to the new system.
The GNU operating system was launched in 1983. GNU is an abbreviation for GNU is not Unix, which means that GNU is similar to Unix, but it is not the same as the Unix system. As Stallman put it, the new operating system gave developers more flexibility.
In the years that followed, Stallman developed a compiler system (GCC) before publishing the GNU Manifesto in 1985. Last but not least, it served as a rallying cry for other developers to get involved in the free software movement. The Free Software Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting open-source software, was founded on October 4th of the same year by Stallman and others.
What is Open Source vs. Free Software?
Not everyone who supported the Free Software movement agreed with the name “free” when it first appeared in 1985. It was said that the word “free” was ambiguous to those who were unfamiliar with the notion.
For this reason, some major free software activists met in Palo Alto in the late 1990s to establish a new phrase. The new word has to be less vague in addition to resolving the issue with the source code. Christine Peterson created the term “Open Source” during one of the weekly meetings on February 3rd, 1998, and it quickly became a catchphrase.
Richard Stallman, on the other hand, maintains that Free software and Open Source software are two distinct movements that still need to be distinguished. The Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative (OSI) share a dislike of proprietary software, but Stallman claims that the two organisations’ goals and ideologies diverge.
Stallman’s Free Software Foundation, for example, stresses the freedom of computing. Open source was established as “a beneficial strategy to interact with future software users and developers and encourage them to generate and enhance source code by participating in an engaged community,” according to the Open Source Initiative (OSI).
A second point is that while the FSF values freedom above all else, the OSI maintains that freedom in the software industry is not unqualified. The latter contends that software users and creators should be able to use their freedom, rather than having it restricted.
To summarise, open-source software is a subset of free software that may be used by anyone, for any purpose, without restriction. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that while open source software is free, the term “free” is subjective.
Open-source software is, indeed, free if you define it as not requiring an initial outlay of funds. Be aware that certain open source software might be difficult to set up, use, and maintain. Now that you’ve paid for the programme, you’ll have to pay for it more indirectly.
The setup and maintenance costs for open-source software are higher than for proprietary software because of the lack of technical assistance.