Open Source isn’t just another veiled term only understandable by geeks like me. OK, maybe it is, but you’re more familiar with it than you realize. Have you ever heard of or used the internet browser Mozilla Firefox? Firefox is Mozilla’s answer to the corporate dominance of companies like Microsoft with their Internet Explorer which ships with just about every computer made on earth. Other commonly used open source platforms include the Linux operating system and the Android operating system for mobile devices.
The Idea Behind Open Source
The idea behind Open Source is that it is not owned and controlled by a corporation but rather developed in a public, collaborative manner and modified and distributed freely. Copyright holders provide the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. In practical terms, the top four reasons individuals or organizations choose open source software are:
- Lower cost
- No vendor ‘lock in’
- Better quality
$60 Billion Per Year In Savings To Consumers
Free distribution doesn’t necessarily mean there is no charge, but nevertheless adoption of open source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers. For example, I saved several hundred dollars when I downloaded GIMPShop for free instead of buying Photoshop. GIMPShop does just about everything Photoshop does and a few things it doesn’t do. It’s an Open Source photo editing program developed by volunteers who had a conviction that high-quality photo editing software should be available to everyone. The reason it does some things Photoshop doesn’t do is because of its open, public development. Anyone on the planet with an idea for a better piece of functionality can create it and add it to the core program. GIMPShop is not dependent on the ingenuity of a small group of hired developers like Photoshop is.
The WordPress Open Source Content Management System
WordPress being Open Source benefits website owners in several different ways:
- Lower cost – mostly free (and free is good!)
- Always at the cutting edge of web technology
Woah, let’s stop right there. Free and cutting-edge don’t seem to belong in the same sentence in a capitalist society since those creating cutting-edge solutions tend to want to get paid royally for their innovations. One would think the profit motive would be eliminated with open source but quite to the contrary. Since the source code for open source is, well, open to anyone, developers from around the globe have the ability to build on what’s been done before and offer something for sale. Just today I got an email advertising a plugin for creating online courses that would save me dozens of hours if I were in to doing that. Eventually, someone will create a free version but for now 80 bucks isn’t a bad price considering it might cost me hundreds of dollars to actually buy a non-open source commercial Content Management System with the same feature. Since Woothemes is able to offer it at such a low price point they are making it accessible to many times more consumers and thus able to gain more profit.
Those are some of the reasons WordPress has in just a few short years evolved from a blogging platform to an any-kind-of-website-you-can-think-of platform and has come to dominate not only the Content Management System market but the website market as well. WordPress is making website ownership within the reach of more and more businesses all the time.