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A brief introduction to open source


Open Source is a type of software licensing model in which the source code of the software is publicly accessible and modifiable. This is in contrast to closed or proprietary systems where the source code is not available and can only be modified by the manufacturer.

The concept of Open Source is based on the idea that software improves when developed collaboratively by a large number of developers from around the world. There are various Open Source licensing models that establish different conditions for the use, distribution, and modification of the source code.

Open Source has become increasingly popular in recent years, emerging as a significant force in software development. Many well-known software products like the Linux operating system, the office suite LibreOffice, the web browser Firefox, and WordPress are examples of Open Source software.

Advantages of Open Source Software

  1. Cost-Free: Open Source software is typically available for free and can be downloaded by anyone.
  2. Transparency: Since the source code is accessible to everyone, anyone can review and customize the code.
  3. Security: With many developers involved in Open Source projects, a higher level of security can be ensured as potential security vulnerabilities are detected and addressed more rapidly.
  4. Flexibility: Open Source software can be customized to suit the user’s needs since they can modify the code themselves.
  5. Collaborative Development: Open Source projects are often supported by a large community of developers worldwide, leading to faster and better development.

Disadvantages of Open Source

  1. Software Lack of Support: As Open Source software is free, there is typically no technical support available unless there is an active community willing to assist.
  2. No Warranty: Open Source software is provided without any warranty or liability, which can pose a risk for critical applications.
  3. Compatibility Issues: Open Source software can sometimes be incompatible with other software or hardware.
  4. Learning Curve: There may be a steep learning curve as using Open Source software often requires a higher level of technical knowledge.
  5. Incompleteness: Since Open Source software is often developed by a community of volunteers, it may be incomplete or unbalanced, with certain features missing.

Best Practice

For genealogists and genealogical societies, as well as any other website operators, a smart mix of Open Source with commercial offerings is often the best choice. Here’s an example:

  • Professional, paid TNG for securely managing research data.
  • WordPress as an Open Source product for presenting additional content.
  • KOHA as an Open Source library system.
  • Professional support through a service provider like us