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Open Source FAQs

What is open source?

The term open source refers to the license applied to a software package, library, or product. Traditionally, commercial software has been produced in two different ways:

  • proprietary software, in which a single organization develops a software package, owns its copyright (or, in some cases, patent), and licenses its use. Usage licenses are nearly always related to payment.
  • open source software is the opposite in many ways. The software itself is developed in collaboration by many people and/or organizations, often managed by a single project or foundation – many people contribute to the package. Copyright is either contributed to a central foundation with authorship maintained as a footnote, or it can be maintained individually by the contributors, as long as the license for the package is consistent or compatible with the overall package. The precompiled source code is made publicly available, hence the term “open source”. 

Another way to understand the difference is in the financial model. If the software itself represents inherent value, proprietary software operates on a scarcity model – that value is recognized by preventing people from sharing the value openly. Open source operates on an abundance model, by which anyone can read the code, contribute their own changes, and use and change the software, creating an abundance of both value and opportunity. The value of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

This difference is not simply philosophical. The recoverable value of open source far exceeds that of the proprietary model in nearly every measurement. This has been recognized by every major industry on the globe, many of which have been or are currently being transformed by open source. In addition, open source has opened up entirely new markets and created vast opportunities.

Where can I go to learn more about the value of open source?

These are some articles and other resources to understand the business value of open source and how it can apply to your industry.

Where can I go to learn more about open source in general?

There are many resources about open source as a means of collaborative development. Here are a few, and also see the lists on this page.

Resources on Open Source

 Procuring Open Source Software in European Public Sector
The best practices to adopt when requiring a specific open source software in public contracts.

 Enterprise Open Source
Learn how to accelerate your company’s open source efforts, based on the experience of hundreds of companies spanning more than two decades of professional, enterprise open source.

 Open Source Audits in Merger and Acquisition Transactions
This ebook provides an overview and practical guide to open source audits in merger and acquisition transactions and offers basic guidelines to improve open source compliance preparedness.

 Open Source Compliance in the Enterprise
A practical guide for organizations on how best to use open source code in products and services, and participate in open source communities, in a legal and responsible way.

 Practical GPL Compliance
This guide offers simple instructions, checklists, and flowcharts that empower compliance teams to work with open source as efficiently as possible.

 How to Reach and Influence Open Source Developers
This paper will give companies practical tips on how to connect with open source projects, identify key contributors, build a strong open source reputation, and ultimately expand their reach and influence within the open source community.

 How to Build Open Source Competency in your Company
This paper provides an overview of that process as well as seven best practices, gleaned from years of collaboration with open source leaders, that will help companies proceed along the path to open source mastery.

 How to Recruit and Hire Open Source Developers
This paper provides practical tips for companies on how to recruit and hire open source developers.

Open Source Guides For The Enterprise