Open-source software offers alternative to off-the-shelf products

“Open-source” is a geeky term, that refers to the popular “free” software movement. The most popular name in this movement is Linux. Microsoft’s biggest competition will be (if it’s not already) the open-source movement. Why? 1) lower costs b) less restrictive licensing.
USA Today writes a nice overview of open-source software.
The term “open source” means that the source code¬—the actual computer code the programmers wrote¬—is available for everyone to see and use. Contrast that with commercial software where the code is often a closely held secret; no one outside the company can see what makes it tick.
For example, last month it was big news (especially in the hacker community) when the source code for two Microsoft operating systems was leaked to the Internet. That meant that anyone with the know-how could examine the code, find flaws, and conceivably make changes to it as well (though those changes stood no chance of being re-incorporated into the body of the company-issued version of the operating system).
With open-source software, that’s the point. You’re allowed, even encouraged, to view the code and make changes to suit your needs.
An open-source project works like this: A group of people get together to create a piece of software. Maybe it’s an entirely new product, or maybe it’s an alternative to something that’s already out there. They aren’t seeking money, just the satisfaction of creating something better. (And taking market share from a company like Microsoft only sweetens the deal.)
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