Open Source

Open Source is a software development model that is in sharp contrast to the closed-source or proprietary model used by Microsoft and virtually all other for-profit software developers.  Open Source means literally that the underlying source code is open and available for all.  You see, there are two versions of software: source code and compiled code. 

Closed Source  Source code is human-readable.  That is the code that human developers write.  After they are done writing the code, they "compile" it to convert it to machine-readable code.  Once source code is compiled it can't be reversed.  So, when Microsoft develops a program they are going to sell, say Microsoft Excel, they will write all of the source code.  Then, they compile it to create the program like excel.exe.  Microsoft then distributes excel.exe on cd, but they never release the underlying source code.  Microsoft needs to rely on this model because if they opened up the source code then they lose control (and thus revenue) because anyone in the world could compile Excel and make changes to the source code.  This closed source model is important and is one reason why computer applications are so incredibly valuable today. 

Open Source
However, there is a contrasting development model called Open Source.  When a developer writes the source code, he makes it available for the world for free.  There are some amazing benefits to this model.  First of all, in an open source model all previous development is available to other developers, and thus developers don't need to reinvent the wheel each time they want to build something.  This allows for true advancements in society since everyone isn't forced to re-do what someone else has done.  Other benefits are ease of installation, making applications available for free worldwide, distributed collaboration, bug visibility, security visibility, lower cost solutions, and many more. 

Another benefit to society of the open source model is the notion that no one controls important technology.  For example, Microsoft Windows has become probably the single most widely deployed program ever.  Thus, you rely on it.  Your company relies on it.  Your schools rely on it, and your city government relies on it.  All of the people at all of the companies in your city rely on it.  Your state relies on it, and your country relies on it.  The world relies on it, and it is absolutely a mission critical piece of software for our entire planet.  Since so many people rely on it, here is the question: should it be under the control of one man or one company?  Scary thought.  Asked another way, should such a valuable resource be controlled by one man or one company?  Look at the other important resources that we rely on, and see how many different providers there are.  For example, electricity is provided by many providers, same with water, gas, telephone, cell phones, internet connections, food, and even computer hardware.  That is where the freedom of all open source software is far superior to the closed source model.  It is under the control of no one.  It is free to all, and the underlying source code is free to all.

Open Source