What is Open Source Code?

Collaboration For The Greater Good

You’ve heard it time and time again, people talking about a new project that involves what’s called “open source code” — but do you really know what that means? If not, then you’ve come to the right place! Let’s go over what makes the code behind the curtain “open source” and how it makes some of your favorite cryptocurrency projects run.

In this article

  1. Terminology Defined & Explained
  2. What Is Open Source?
  3. Open Source Code Versus Other Code
  4. Who Uses Open Source Software?
  5. Open Source & Cryptocurrency
  6. Helpful Resources
  7. Conclusion

Terminology Defined & Explained

Before we can dive into how open source code & software functions, let’s go over some important terminology.

Open Source: In general, open source refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available.

Source Code: Source code is the fundamental component of a computer program that is created by a programmer. It can be read and easily understood by a human being. When a programmer types a sequence of C language statements into Windows Notepad, for example, and saves the sequence as a text file, the text file is said to contain the source code.

Free Distribution: Free distribution doesn’t sound like a specialized term, does it? It’s not, but understanding how this term fits into the open source community will help you understand what open source is and isn’t. Open source isn’t just free access to the source code. Not only can you use open source to develop a custom application, you may then freely distribute your application.

Community: Once the original programmers distribute an open source program, it goes out into the wide, wide world, where everyone uses and supports it. That’s the program’s community — a collaborative effort, where developers improve the code and share what they’ve learned. An active and knowledgeable community is vital to the health and success of an open source program.

What Is Open Source?

Open source code, as stated above, refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. However, simply putting your code online for others to see doesn’t necessarily make it “open source.” There are a few requirements for it to actually be considered open source code.

The software being distributed must be redistributed to anyone else without any restriction. Also, the source code must be made available, so that the receiving party will be able to improve or modify it. Additionally, the license can require improved versions of the software to carry a different name or version from the original software. As long as these characteristics are present in your code, it can be considered “open source” and inspected by anyone.

Open source software programmers can actually charge money for the software that they create or help out with. However, some programmers charge users money for software services and support instead, as they’ve found it to sometimes be more lucrative. This way, their software remains free of charge, and they make money helping others install, use, and troubleshoot it.

Although some open source code and software remains free of charge, having the skill of programming and troubleshooting can be quite valuable for some people. Many employers specifically hire programmers with experience working on open source software.

Open source code refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software programmers can actually charge money for the software that they create or help out with.

Open Source Code Versus Other Code

As opposed to closed source code and software, open source code differs in several ways. Obviously, open source code is available to essentially anyone with access to it, while closed source code is not. However, there are more differences that go beyond just accessibility.

One of the main advantages of open source software is the cost; however, the term “free” actually refers to the freedom from restrictions and not so much its price. If a business (or even you) has the in-house capabilities and technical expertise to maintain the software and resources to implement, train and provide support to staff, then open source may turn out to be the most cost-effective solution.

Another thing to consider is the fact that open source software relies on a loyal and engaged online user community to deliver support, but this support often fails to deliver the high level of response that many consumers expect and require. These communities must also be found on the web and some would argue there’s no incentive for the community to address a user’s problem. On top of that, another area of high criticism is in its usability.

For closed software, usability is actually a high selling point due to expert testing that can be executed for a more targeted audience. User manuals are also provided for immediate reference and quick training, while support services help to maximize use of the software. For large companies, security is of extreme importance and that’s where open source code becomes an issue.

On a much broader scale, open source code actually has a good number of tangible benefits outside of just efficiency and accessibility. The very concept of having open source code allows for strong communities to emerge out of programmers dedicated to innovating. The global communities united around improving these solutions introduce new concepts and capabilities faster, better, and more efficient than internal teams working on proprietary solutions. Overall, the key pros and cons surrounding open source code depend on the user and their technical capabilities along with the situation at hand.

One of the main advantages of open source software is the cost. Also, the very concept of having open source code allows for strong communities to emerge out of programmers dedicated to innovating. Nonetheless, the key pros and cons vary depending on the situation of the user.

Who Uses Open Source Software

It turns out that open source code and software can be extremely helpful to all kinds of people outside of just the programming fields. Because early inventors built much of the Internet itself on open source technologies — like the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server application — anyone using the Internet today benefits from open source software. Not into programming or just don’t know too much about code? You can look at and read through source code to learn more about how programming works. Afterall, the best way to learn about a concept is to familiarize yourself with as much new information as possible.

As such, there are also tons of people who prefer open source code due to its increased control, security, and stability. Programmers can inspect the code and carefully read through what it’s doing. The idea of having readily available — and to mention completely free of charge — code can benefit people in a lot of ways, including making them better programmers, increasing their program security, and giving them more control.

Open source code isn’t solely relevant for programmers and coders, as we all can benefit from “open source” thinking. People use open source code to learn more about coding, create the best cryptocurrency projects, and build a community of innovators.

Open Source & Cryptocurrency

All of the major cryptocurrency and open blockchain projects operate on an open source model. In fact, Linux is probably the largest and most important example of the open source model. All of these projects create computer networks that allow connected participants to reach an agreement over shared data (the blockchain of the cryptocurrency).

Projects like Bitcoin utilize an open network to create incentives toward cooperation and, ultimately, agreement over every scrap of data needed to make a currency. That decentralization is built on open consensus mechanisms and open source software. If the code wasn’t open source, the participants — who happen to be complete strangers on the internet — would never be able to understand and trust the system they are joining.

Most genuine projects within the crypto space utilize their open source code and network to help build their decentralized network. In fact, the open source code used to accomplish all that it does is itself decentralized. Open source forking is a popular thing to do among the programming community, resulting in tons of Bitcoin forks that are still currently running.

All of the major cryptocurrency and open blockchain projects operate on an open source model. Most genuine projects within the crypto space utilize their open source code and network to help build their decentralized network.

How Can I Learn More

In case you want to learn more about open source code or are just curious about more technical intricacies, there are numerous online resources that will help you get more familiar with everything:

Each of these resources can help guide you in the right direction for learning more about open source, coding, and open source software.

Conclusion

Open source code is actually one of the largest catalysts of broad programming innovation. By collaborating on accessible code, programmers have the ability to create communities of innovators who can make programs that we benefit from. In addition to the plethora of direct efficient advantages that come with open source coding, there are many broader benefits of utilizing open source code and learning more about it. Familiarizing yourself with this concept gives you a much strong appreciation for many major cryptocurrency and blockchain projects which currently exist, emphasizing the notion of open collaboration for the greater good.


Have you ever interacted with open source code before?
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