What Is Open Source Software?


Quick Answer

Open-source software is a type of software that includes its source code in addition to the compiled version. The copyright holder of open-source software provides users with a license to analyze, study and change the software to their liking in addition to allowing them to distribute the modified version of the software by any means they wish. It’s commonly available free of charge.

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Full Answer

Any open-source software must meet several criteria before it can qualify as such. Those criteria include free distribution, inclusion of the source code, and having a license that doesn’t require the exclusion of or interference with other software.

The most important technological aspect of open-source software is its inclusion of the source code. The source code is a set of programming instructions that eventually goes through a process called compiling, where it’s translated into a form that computers can read and use. The inclusion of the source code actively encourages the users to modify the software, as it provides them with all the necessary tools required for that process.

Although open-source software is typically free of charge, it is not synonymous with freeware because sometimes there are expenses with regard to customer support or vendor-specific features. For example, Linux is an open-source operating system that is available for free, while Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a Linux distribution that provides warranty and technical support and targets the commercial market.

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