You may be hesitant to use free and open source software. Because much of the code is contributed by volunteers. For most areas of our lives, having products from reputable companies is a plus. It’s how you trust that something is well made.
You don’t have to trust code by a handful of volunteers over high-quality software by experts from Microsoft, Apple, or Google.
As the tech giants have shown, their software can be trustworthy, but it often comes with all sorts of tracking and other forms of abuse. can be used for Here’s why.
1. Public code is trusted code
A fundamental problem with much software from large, well-known technology companies is that the source code is invisible. This is proprietary information and problems may arise if you view, modify or redistribute the code.
Your only choice is to use the software as is and trust that it is safe to do so, or alternatively choose not to use the software.
This type of code is known as closed source software. Since you can’t see the code, you have no way of knowing exactly what the software is doing. This leaves companies free to do whatever they can to increase their profits.
This is why the apps we use try to monitor our behavior, track our location, and otherwise monitor our behavior. That information helps companies sell to data brokers or use it to sell advertising.
Suppose an open source app wants to introduce the same kind of data collection. Well, few people actually want to be tracked. We take your privacy very seriously, so if given the option to remove the code that tracks our behavior, we will do so.
Anyone can edit and redistribute the source code, so someone can use the code to create a new (and sometimes virtually identical) app with the unwanted bits removed. This process is called forking and discourages bad behavior.
As in other areas of our lives, transparency tends to encourage people to do better and get better results.
2. That big company?They all trust open source
When you think of big tech, what’s the first company that comes to mind? Amazon? Facebook? Apple? All three of these companies use open source software to varying degrees and contribute to specific projects. And they are not alone.
Consider how Microsoft is investing in the Linux kernel, an open source operating system, to make Azure a compelling cloud computing offering. Google uses Linux not only in the cloud, but also on Chromebooks and Android. All of the companies below were Platinum members of the Linux Foundation in early 2023.
Valve will pay developers to improve all open source software that makes Steam Deck possible. There are also giants, such as Oracle and IBM, who often do business with non-consumer businesses. Both use and develop open source software.
The Internet itself is largely built on an open source architecture. Web developers are familiar with what is called the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) and is often used as the foundation for websites and web apps. All four components are open source.
Developers and businesses trust open source software. Because it’s more reliable, easier than developing alternatives from scratch, and often better than doing it yourself. When using their products, we often still rely on open source code at some point in the chain, even if the end result has its own layer on top.
3. Everyone is investing in the same code
When source code is made public, it enters a kind of public commons. Some open source technologies work like infrastructure. As with public roads, we are all private citizens and businesses working together to invest in reliable infrastructure.
So while much open source software is the work of volunteers, much of it is also the work of paid employees. For example, the Linux kernel is used in both supercomputers and mobile phones. There’s a reason everyone, from manufacturers to scientists, provides patches that add features or fix bugs to the Linux kernel.
Even as companies create products that compete with each other in the marketplace, they invest in making the open source software they use as good and stable as possible.
Many open source programs are distributed under copyleft licenses that require people using the code to share their changes publicly. This prevents someone from taking the code and hiding it in their personal creations. Instead, they give back, the program gets better, and we all benefit.
4. Software is (usually) freely available
Most open source software is free to use, but this is a distinguishing feature that has become less prominent than it used to be. These days, most software doesn’t come with a price tag. But there is a difference. Closed-source software is often free because developers have found another way to profit from their projects. Generally, it is the collection and sale or other use of data about us.
Google Docs allows Google to log all keystrokes and monetize them in any way you choose. Google makes more money by getting as many people as possible to use Google Docs than by selling software to the minority who are willing to pay.
Open source software is truly free, with no strings attached. If you use LibreOffice, who knows what you will do with that software.
LibreOffice is free because in a world where so much is done on computers, it’s unfair to let people choose between buying expensive software and monitoring their personal behavior to participate in society. because it may be considered This brings us to the next point.
The open source software world is governed by a different set of rules than the proprietary software world. Many people who create FOSS do so because they believe it is ethical. Sometimes it’s about making money, but most of the time it’s not. People often write and share code out of good intentions.
That’s not to say people are selfless. There are many things you can get besides money. Many people want to return the favor by learning how to program by referring to source code that is already available. Others have benefited from open source alternatives to paid programs and would like to create similar software for people like themselves.
Some users like the freedom to do whatever they want with the software on their machine and can’t imagine imposing restrictions on themselves or others.
Users impose strict standards on software creators. Like when Canonical added Amazon’s recommendations to Ubuntu, people get mad at changes that people don’t see in the proprietary software world (as a result, they end up doing it). removed).
In the free software world, by default, we expect apps not to restrict who can access them, limit how they can be used, or track their behavior.
6. Open source software has stood the test of time
Many open source projects have been around for decades. Consider Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Audacity, and VLC. These are programs that have been progressively improved, losing old bugs and gaining new features. The same is true for background software such as the Linux kernel and desktop environments such as GNOME and KDE. The software is mature and proven.
This is not to say that there is no stable closed source software that has been around for years. There is But you already trust proprietary software. The point here is that a lot of open source software is equally, if not more, proven.
It’s also worth noting how, in the world of proprietary software, that software dies when the company goes bankrupt. No one can see the code unless someone buys the rights. it simply disappears.
Open source software may lose version visibility and the project may no longer be maintained. But the code still exists, and some people may use this code to create new software. There is a nature.
Open source software is the most trusted software
Open source software doesn’t always provide the most functionality or the best performance. We have many unique programs that outperform the competition. But when it comes to trust, that’s where open source software can help the most.
It’s not after your data. I don’t want to serve ads. We’re not trying to lock you into the ecosystem. If you want peace of mind when using your computer, free and open source software is your best bet.