There are several differences and similarities when discussing open and closed source software or systems. Some operating systems that are currently in operating are closed source and some of them are open source. Both closed and open source software / systems have their place in the technical world. It is difficult to say which of these types is better, because it will usually be based on numerous factors. Possible factors could be cost, convenience, flexibility, maintenance, and accessibility.
The comparison will always be made when discussing open and open closed source software / systems, but it will always be a person-to-person situation based on necessity. Closed Source Software / Systems Closed source software is defined as software that contains a hidden source code or a non-visible source code. It is usually developed by a single person or a company. Once a final copy of the closed source software is developed and completed, it is sold to the public. This final copy is what end-users will find available to them.
According to (Grant, 2004), “Closed source software is normally copyrighted or patented and is legally protected as intellectual property. ” He also mentions that legally, “A user cannot give it away, copy it, or modify it in any way unless the user has a special license or permission to do it” (Grant, 2004). There are incentives for producing closed source software. It can be sold by the developers and it is intangible. What is meant here is, the developers or company that produced it can replicate it numerous times over. In order for companies to make a profit the software is generally rushed out the door.
When this happens, the software can have issues in terms of functionality, maintenance, and support. Due to these issues, the producing companies are the only ones with the authority to produce patches to fix problems. Ultimately, after a patch is made the responsibility will rely on the end user to apply it and resolve the problem. This is where a security issue is involved. Grant mentions in his article, “Users have a poor record for applying patches resulting in thousands of computers around the world being left vulnerable every time a flaw is discovered” (Grant, 2004).
Cost is a major factor with open and closed source software / systems. Closed source types generally cost more and this is due to licensing, patents, copyrights, registration, and manufacturer or company name. Maintenance, updates, and support are basic complimentary features when buying a closed source type. An example of a closed source software / system is Microsoft’s Windows and Office. Open Source Software / Systems As previously mentioned, closed source software / systems have their source code “hidden” from the public. Open source software / systems have their source code “visible” to the public.
The same type of developers who create closed source software can create open source software. Grant states, “The reasons for writing open source software range from those who have a passion for computing and who want to contribute to make a difference, to those who do not like having to rely on any single company to produce what is needed” (Grant, 2004). Open source software / systems and the authors who create them are legally protected by the General Public License, or GPL. Since it is published under the GPL, users can use it for free and give it to as many people as they want to as long as they do not pretend they wrote it.
According to Grant, “Users can make changes to open source software as long as what was modified is availably known to the public (Grant, 2004). That is one aspect that makes open source software / systems so grand, is that users can change the source code. This continues to the next aspect, which is; updates, patches and/or fixes. Users, or the public, can apply these factors straight to the open source software which is unlike closed source types. One of the downsides to open source software / systems is there is no warranty.
If the software malfunction or does not perform well the users will have no recourse. Some other factors that Grant mentions with open source software / systems are, “There is no guarantee of good documentation or support, (Grant, 2004)” which is different than closed source types. Obviously, cost will always be an issue. Open source is free! Closed source is not. On the record, open source software packages have had better security that closed source types. A couple examples of open source type software / systems are; Linux and Open Office. Summary Overall, there are no perfect software / systems in the world.
Some people might say that closed source software is for novice users and open source software is more for an advanced user base. Both types have a place in the technical world and serve a purpose. Their differences in maintenance, cost, functionality, support, flexibility, and availability will only make a difference in a person to person scenario. It can also come down to convenience and personal preference. Closed source and open source software / systems might have their differences, but where one might outweigh the other they tend to maintain a certain balance.