What is Open Source Software?
As the name suggests, open source software is one whose original source code is publicly available and can be modified at will. This type of software either has its source code publicly available or includes it somewhere inside the compiled software download, making it easy for the user to modify, customize or add/remove features based on their preferences.
Contributions to Open Source
The open source concept has contributed significantly to software development. Because of its open nature, it becomes easy for contributors to add new features, extend features and fix bugs. These changes usually reflect in newer versions along with the source code for further improvement. This makes it a formidable system that can run for a long term and is adaptive to all kinds of conditions.
There is no need to spend a fortune on proprietary software where additional charges for maintenance and software updates are involved. With open source software, contributors make all the needed changes. It performs well in real time because of the contributions from multiple individual experts. There is always a customized version that meets specific requirements out there!
Open source software shares its source code, making it quite easy to understand and modify as required. This is unlike commercial software, where every time a change is required in the product, the vendor has to be contacted, and then wait for them to deliver the feature (which can take forever).
The source code of the open source software is available publicly and its modifications are not limited to a particular person or organization. Additionally, it has an extendibility scope that is not limited to any particular design or architecture. Because of these factors, anyone can use the open source software, as it was designed using ideas from multiple people with varied intentions. Therefore it stands a better chance of performing well in complex scenarios.
Security is better in the open source system, because there are experienced experts from all over, always looking out for possible security loopholes and fixing them. This is one feature that gives the open source an edge over proprietary software.
Typical open source software has numerous documentations as well as community wikis that host answers to frequently asked questions. Individuals and group experts who worked on the technology/platform are available on online open source forums. Some of the open source vendors are also available to provide support for the software for a small fee.
As mentioned in the previous point, resources for open source are available everywhere. On the other hand, commercial software developers seldom share their codes or documentation to everyone. So, this makes it quite difficult to find the resources or build knowledge in that technology.