Why open-source matters

[Opinion] Why Open-Source Matters

PANTHEON.tech is an avid open-source supporter. As the largest contributor to the OpenDaylight source-code, as well as being active in many more open-source projects and creating our own, we believe that open software is a way of enriching collaboration and making better products overall.

Open-source is also a philosophy of freedom, meaningfulness, and the idea that wisdom should be shared.

Practical consequences of software being open are far-reaching and have great significance – much bigger than an uninvolved observer would guess at a first glance. To see the consequences, you need to take a look at a big enough project. Or even better, at an entire infrastructure, consisting of open-source projects.

Collaboration in Open-Source

A big advantage open-source brings is collaboration. This might sound obvious but it has several forms:

  • The collaboration between companies, even competitors, contributing their own piece to the common open code, results in multiple-times better products, compared to standalone work.
  • The collaboration of academics. The best results were always done with academic precision.

Research & Academics in Open-Source

Researchers prefer to spend their valuable time working on open code and open research. Some run their state-of-art static or formal analysis tools as part of their research upon open-source projects and then send patches.

Some design well-defined APIs, as for example UNIX POSIX. Others solve known problems using open-source platforms as a base, for example, NixOS, which solves so many problems with packaging.

But why do academics prefer open code? Not only because open code is more accessible. Some of them prefer open code, due to a philosophical point of view – since a code is similar to a mathematical equation or other scientific findings, it should be published publically.

A code should be perfect, consistent, and bug-free. That’s why collaboration with people having this mindset is invaluable.

Community & Collaboration

Community collaboration. There is no small amount of excellent engineers contributing to open-source in their free time either for fun, own needs, belief in open source philosophy, or to help other people and seeking sense in their work.

Informal collaboration – mailing lists, IRC channels, Stackoverflow, blogs, and forums. Everyone who developed a closed-sourced project knows what I am talking about. How much easier is it to find needed information about an open-source project, whether it is a guide, documentation, explanation of error message, or bug. This makes work on open-source projects much more effective and simple.

Verification in Open-Source

The verificatory side of collaboration is crucial. The amount of eyeballs controlling your code, again and again, is a huge advantage, compared to the closed-source way of a one or two-person, one-time review. For the same reason, Linus Torvalds said:

I made it publicly available but I had no intention to use the open-source methodology, I just wanted to have comments on the work.

Different people have different ideas and points of view. The involvement of lots of computer science experts makes the results far more promising and objective.

The overall time diverse people spend working on open-source is much bigger than the costs any corporation would be willing to pay for their closed source equivalent.

But there is much more about open source than just better collaboration. Open-source is also a philosophy of freedom, meaningfulness, and the idea that wisdom should be shared.

People would rather create something that makes sense and that might help other people, as we are social beings. Also, using something without the necessity of being bound in any way.

Imagine a Closed World

Now, just for contradiction, let’s imagine everything was closed – even standards and protocols in one big monopoly.

You would be forced to use only their technology, to buy services or updates to be able to work as usual. And what’s worse? What if the company stops to deliver or support something, you really need? For example, formatting of your important documents.

Kind of scary. Let’s rather imagine an open world, where absolutely everything is done in an open-source manner, even cars, electrical appliances, everything. I believe that now you got the importance of open-source philosophy as well.

Open source is the future. It’s modern and it’s the right way to go from many points of view. Even big players who initially didn’t like the idea are now involved at least partially.

But how can we adapt to these changes? How it is possible to be in business with open-source?

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we might touch on this topic.

by Július Milan | Leave us your feedback on this post!

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