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10 things to know about open-source technology

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Open-source technology is everywhere, but unless you’re in the tech industry, you may not necessarily know the details about it.

Here are 10 important things you need to know if you’re considering moving to an open-source solution or if you’re curious about what open-source technology is…

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1. You’re probably already using it

Are you using the Firefox browser? If so, you are already using open-source software.

In fact, a lot of people use open source without knowing it.

The Android Operating System, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Drupal, WordPress, GnuCash, Notepad++, and many more open-source products enjoy widespread usage.

And that doesn’t even account for the snippets of open-source code that find their way into proprietary software.

It’s also in a lot of devices you use. Your DSL router. Your flatscreen TV. Even your connected speaker — a lot of these devices run on open source.

2. You can get help when you need it

Most open-source software comes with several support options, although getting help may not always be free.

Even if a piece of open-source software doesn’t have a 24/7 support hotline to call, that doesn’t mean there is no support. There are forums or mailing lists for support.

In other cases, the developers who created the software can be contacted directly. Or you could just ask on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re looking for enterprise open-source solutions that come with all the support you need, Red Hat is the world’s largest provider.

3. Open-source software is not just for programmers

Many people assume that, because of the nature of open-source, only programmers use it. The reality is that anyone can use it – with or without the skills to modify and rebuild the software.

It’s a safe bet that the majority of open-source users do not have a single programming language in their skill set.

With most open-source projects, there’s no need to install from source now.

Most platforms have binary installers that make adding open-source software to your PC as easy as installing proprietary software.

4. It’s not just for Linux

There is a common misconception that open source is only for Linux.

In fact, there are many open-source projects that are either cross-platform or Windows only.

5. There may still be a price tag

To be considered open source, the source code needs to be freely available.

The application itself, however, may not be free.

There are many companies that generate revenue from their open-source projects. In many cases, there is a cost for things like support or added features.

There is, however, usually a “community” version that is free.

6. You have full access to the source code

Open source means you have full access to the source code of a program. That does not mean you need access to the source.

Just because the source is out there and available doesn’t mean it’s necessary.

In fact, you may go your entire life using open-source software without having to touch the source.

But should you want to make some modifications to an application, the code is there when you need it.

7. The GPL initiative is helping to achieve greater predictability in open-source licensing

More than 60 companies have joined the initiative that aims to give licensees a fair chance to correct violations before their licenses are terminated.

It will help business leaders to strengthen long-standing community standards of pragmatism, fairness, and predictability in open-source license enforcement.

8. Open-source software is responsible for many tech innovations

Without open-source, we wouldn’t have nearly as many tech innovations in areas like IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the cloud.

In fact, open source is becoming the standard for how many new cloud technologies are being developed. This includes cloud infrastructure and cloud apps.

9. Freeware and shareware are not the same as open-source

Maybe you remember terms like freeware and shareware. Those two types of software are not the same as open source.

If the source code to the software is not made available, that piece of software is definitely not open source.

10. The most innovative companies use enterprise open source

According to a Red Hat report, 86% of IT leaders agree that open source and innovation go hand-in-hand.

The 2020 The State of Enterprise Open Source report surveyed 950 IT leaders. In it, there are valuable insights into why open-source solutions are making their way into enterprises.

Open-source software is evolving and it’s definitely here to stay

Many open source apps are now seen as either equal to or superior to their proprietary counterparts. This trend is set to continue as more and more users move from the traditional desktop to cloud-based solutions.

As the largest open-source company in the world, Red Hat believes using an open development model helps create more stable, secure, and innovative technologies.

At Red Hat, we’ve spent more than two decades collaborating on community projects and protecting open-source licenses. This lets us continue to develop software that pushes the boundaries of our technological abilities.

Feature image: Arnold Francisca on Unsplash

This article is supplied by Red Hat.

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