What is Open Source Development?

S. Gonzales

Open source development is a specific type of software development process. In this process, peers openly review the stages of a piece of software's development. This type of software development is transparent and accessible, so users are able to give their input, whether through suggestion or through personal modifications.

In open source development, peers openly review the stages of a piece of software's development.
In open source development, peers openly review the stages of a piece of software's development.

The benefits of the open source development process can't be understated. Many users and developers are able to influence how a product turns out, so the potential to churn out a high-quality product is high. This is very different from proprietary projects, which usually remain guarded during the development process, with the process being known only by employees of the originating company. Proprietary projects often don't receive feedback from the public at large until they go on the market, but the open source development process encourages feedback at many stages of development so that the best quality of product can be achieved.

The open source development process can be an invaluable learning tool for those who wish to educate themselves on software development. Open source development hinges on the participation of users, so users are encouraged to take pieces of software and essentially make them their own through modifications and updates. The collaboration of different users ensures a kind of virtual checks-and-balances system wherein a product is developed as a result of end users' desires, needs and input, as opposed to a proprietary company's bottom line.

This process can result in an open source product that is comparable or better to proprietary software — not only in application but also in flexibility and reliability. Both the applications themselves and the data they produce have a higher chance of being what end users truly want. MySQL and PHP are examples of applications that have resulted from the open source development process.

As a bonus, the open source development process and the products that result often cost less than their proprietary counterparts. In fact, open source projects are considered free for the public to use and modify. This means that users and developers can view the source code for the projects, tweak the projects as they see fit and distribute them to other sources without having to pay for licenses. Instead, it could be argued that the public actually profits from using open source products, because using them can provide competition for proprietary software companies, which can then result in proprietary software prices being driven down.

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