3 misunderstandings concerning Open Source software

De afgelopen jaren hebben we vaak mogen uitleggen wat open source software inhoudt en heel wat misverstanden weersproken.

In recent years we have often had the opportunity to explain what open source software means and to refute many misunderstandings.

As a sponsor of Free Software Foundation Europe, Hendrikx ITC makes extensive use of open source software. Our motto is: “Open source unless”.

Herewith the top 3 of misunderstandings concerning Open Source software.

1. Open Source software is always free

You can indeed use many open source products for free: Ubuntu Linux, Firefox and WordPress. The accompanying licenses often give you a lot of freedom: you are almost always allowed to modify the software according to your own wishes (customization).

This is the reason why open source software has taken off in recent years: innovative IT and data science projects have a head start if no time and energy is spent arranging the budget for expensive and inflexible software licenses.

But developers of open source software also want to make money! This is done in various ways. For example, in addition to a free variant, a paid, Enterprise, variant can often be purchased: (e.g. Ubuntu Linux, WordPress). Customers then pay for extra functionality, customization or management services.

This is not often the case for consumers, but it is for companies and governments. A company like Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) has grown into a billion-dollar company by offering enterprise software in addition to free open source software and selling all kinds of extra services along with it.

2. Open Source software is made by amateurs and hackers

Every self-respecting IT nerd has published his or her software projects online. Platforms like github, sourceforge and gitlab are full of them.

Yet there are many projects that grow into mature IT products. Developers who actively (co) develop open source solutions are often highly motivated and very knowledgeable.

Furthermore, large parties such as IBM, Google and Facebook invest billions in (large) open source projects. For example, Linux (an alternative to MS Windows that we would be happy to tell you more about if you like) was started by a computer science student and has now grown to become an essential part of the Internet infrastructure!

3. Open Source software is unsafe (because evryone can see the code)

Imagine that you are not allowed to look under the hood of a car. The supplier prohibited you from checking the operation of the engine, brakes and gas pedal. And that if you ask whether it is all safe and you will pass the MOT, the answer is: “Of course it is safe, because we have already checked it all.”

The above is the case with closed or closed source software. End users have to rely on the blue eyes of the supplier and just hope that there are no vulnerabilities or, even worse, backdoors.

The openness of open source solutions actually contributes to security. Anyone can perform checks. Potential security leaks are therefore quickly detected and can be adequately resolved. If necessary, you can fix them yourself since they are open source.

Author: Ad Hendrikx (CEO, Hendrikx ITC)