Open Source Software

Explained by Common Craft
You may never see it, but open source software is part of nearly everything we do on the web. Open source offers a fundamentally different way to create, improve and share software.
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Video Transcript:

Let’s say you’re a programmer and you’ve created what you think is an amazing tool for other programmers. It took you untold hours to develop the recipe for making it work and now you’re thinking about the future.

How will the tool reach people? How will it be supported and improved over time? What are your goals?

One popular option means keeping the recipe private, making a commercial product and competing with other tool makers. Here, you stay in control of the tool and have the potential of building a business around it.

When a tool like software is under the control of a single company or individual and the source code is private, it’s called closed source or proprietary software.

In most cases, the company puts restrictions on the tool’s use, keeps the source code secret and may maintain and support the software over time.

And this can work very well. But it also comes with risk. If you’re not able to make a profit, it may be difficult to support and maintain your product.

There is a fundamentally different way to think about the future of your tool. It’s called open source. Here, instead of controlling the source code, you license it in way that encourages sharing.

For example, an open source license may state that anyone can copy, modify and use the recipe as long as their contributions are also freely shared.

A big idea behind open source is that the best tools come from the free flow of feedback, ideas and modifications. By choosing to share the recipe as open source, your work becomes a starting point for anyone to access and improve it over time.

While open source projects vary, larger open source projects are often managed by volunteers around the world who are motivated by learning, experimentation and a sense of community.

While the source code can be free, some companies build businesses by customizing, supporting and maintaining the tool for others.

And it works. The Wordpress blogging platform, the Mozilla Firefox browser and Apache, the world’s most widely used web server software, are all open source projects.

The future of your new tool is up to you and there is no right or wrong direction. If you’re ready to accept the risk and work to build and maintain your proprietary tool, you could keep control of the source code and even build a business from your efforts.

But if you’re more motivated to see your tool improve in the hands of many people over time, open source could be the best option for you.



What it teaches:

This video follows the story of a software developer who created a new tool and is trying to figure out how the tool will be shared and supported in the future. It teaches:

  • Why open source makes sense for some types of software
  • How open source differs from closed source, or proprietary software
  • What motivates people to work on open source projects
  • How businesses work with open source software

Video Info:

  • Duration:  02m 50s
  • Captions Available:  YES
  • Lesson Plan:  YES
  • Category:  Technology
  • ISTE Standard:  Empowered Learner, Indicator 1d

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