Necessity is the mother of invention and the same is applicable for the software industry as well. We are unleashing several new ways of accomplishing our tasks on our computers and mobile devices, which is the driving force and innovation behind the availability of different types of programs for different requirements. But, when it comes to the different types of software available, everything boils down to two different types of software, and it is open-source and closed-source. Both open-source and closed-source software are available in the market, and if you want to accomplish a certain type of job on a computer, you have both the options in hand.
It’s up to you, whether you should choose open-source software or closed-source software. Basically, open-source software makes the source code available to everybody, so that the normal users can contribute to the development, however, in the case of closed-source software, it is completely the opposite. In the case of closed-source software, it is developed by different developers for commercial purposes, and the source code is not publicly available to the normal users or worldwide developers, and thus, they can’t contribute to the development. This basic difference between the open-source and closed-source software leads to the different advantages and disadvantages each of them has, and today I will be talking about open-source versus closed-source software.
Difference between Closed source and Open Source?
So, without any further delay, let’s get started with the differences between open-source software and closed-source software with respect to several aspects. You can also have a look at this story, where I talked about the difference between open-source software and free software and the advantages of open-source software over proprietary software. But, here I will keep my discussion strictly limited to the differences between open-source software and closed-source software.
1. What is the revenue model of close & open source developers?
When it comes to closed-source software, you can either get it for free or you will have to pay a one time fee or subscribe in order to use the software. In the case of free software, most of them come with ads or promotional content, which gives them the revenue for the hard work of the developers.
Even if you are using a trial version of a paid software, it is the time, when the developers try to impress you with the functionality of the software so that you purchase a license to use the software in the future. That’s how closed-source software developers earn revenue.
As closed-source software is designed by salaried software developers, who work in companies, the companies also have to promote the software, so that most users come to know about it and they at least try the software before they purchase it. So that is a basic revenue model of closed-source software.
In the case of open-source software, the software is developed by independent developers and they do not get any direct amount in return, nor they come with ads. You can see this story to find out, what are the different ways, the open-source software developers earn money. To be said in simple words, the open-source software developers get donations, and they also earn money by offering training for the software they develop.
Additionally, the fact that most open-source software and not backed by big corporates, they lack promotion and that is a reason, why the presence of several useful open-source software is never known to the public. This eventually leads to the death of certain open-source projects, which I will be discussing in the next point.
See: Differences between Windows and Linux operating systems.
2. Which one has long-term availability of software?
There are several open-source software, which is quite popular among users and a few examples are GIMP, Hadoop, several Linux distribution, etc. But the list of open-source software don’t and here and you can find a bunch of other open-source software. But, if an open-source software is not widely accepted by the public or people do not come to know about the same. The independent developers, working on the project might stop showing interest in it and that’s when and open-source software heads towards its end.
So, if you are happy with particular open-source software, which is not that popular, chances are there, you might not be able to use the software for the rest of your life if it does not get updates from time to time. With time, as people will get new operating systems, and more vulnerabilities will be discovered, without any updates to software, it can be used as a wormhole for the hackers to get access to your system.
There are several closed-source software as well, which were not accepted widely by the public. In such situations, as well the closed-source software stops getting updates and it eventually becomes unusable after some point in time.
However, as closed-source software are meant especially for business requirements, they get a lot of promotional shoutouts, and that is the reason why most closed-source software get useful updates from time to time so that it can always be armed with the latest features, which most people look out for. So, the ultimate life cycle of most closed-source software is higher than the average life-cycle of that of the open-source counterparts.
The open-source software developers do not promote their software, and that is one of the fundamental reasons, why open-source software is often abandoned by developers.
3. Availability for several platforms
Open-source software is mostly available for several platforms as the developers want the software to be used on multiple platforms. That way, the software can have skyrocketing market shares, and as more users will be able to use the software, more bugs will be reported, and that data will hence be used to make the software more stable.
Additionally, as the source code is available freely, it can also be compiled to be made available on several platforms. That is the reason, why you can find a universe of open-source software for the Linux platforms, and the number of closed-source software available for Linux is relatively less than that of open-source solutions.
On the other hand, closed-source software is made for commercial purposes, and thus, the software is targeted only towards the platforms, which has the maximum market share to get the maximum returns for the hard work.
Even if a software is not paid, the free software comes with ads, which help the developers get the revenue. Additionally, as the closed for software does not have the source code available for everybody, the independent developers cannot make the software available for different platforms.
Have a look at Microsoft Office and other free software that you can get only for Windows and not for Linux. So, when it comes to availability for several platforms, open-source software is available for all the major platforms, no matter what is a market share.
4. What about making changes within a software?
When it comes to open-source software, the source code is available freely and if a user wants to make certain modifications to the software, he can do it freely, as long as he has some coding skills.
So, you can always add new features to existing open-source software which makes it a great choice among most advanced users. After modifying the software with the necessary features, the same can also be distributed among other users, so that they can also use it.
On the other hand, in the case of closed-source software, the source code is not available freely, and if you want some modifications or new features to the software, you might have to upgrade to the paid version or request the developers to add more features. The developers will basically add new features, looking at their demands.
See: Laptop vs. desktop- Final guide to purchasing your next computer
So if you are looking for a feature, which is not demanded by the majority of users, there are fade chances you will get that feature, and the other option is, you will have to choose another alternative software.
Therefore, when it comes to adding new features, open-source software adds new features faster than that of closed-source software, however, closed-source software also gets updates from time to time to be ahead in the competition.
5. Support and assistance for software usage
This might not be necessary for most software, however, if you are using some special-purpose software, you need to understand the software completely before you can start using it.
When it comes to supporting and documentation, closed-source software, especially the paid software does a good job at it. Most closed-source software comes with proper documentation, which makes it easier to use, even if somebody is not an advanced user.
So, in most cases, the closed-source software developers need a separate team, to create proper documentation so that the users do not face in kind of troubles at the time of using it.
On the other hand, in the case of open-source software, proper documentation is not available in most cases and the developers are not abiding by the law to do so as well.
However, if you are facing certain problems with open-source software, you can find forums online, where you can ask for a solution, and the team of developers will always be ready to help.
Depending upon the software that you are using, if that is a popular one, you can find hundreds of forums, where you can get solutions to your problems and know exactly how to use the software.
But in spite of all that, when it comes to supporting, closed-source software is always a notch ahead to that of open-source software. You might also need to go through additional training to know how to use certain open-source software and that will also add expenses, and the developers can also earn money for the development by offering software usage training.
6. The complexity of usability between open source & Closed source
As no proper documentation is available for open-source software, they might become very difficult to use for certain users. The problem is much more when it comes to some special purpose software or software that is used for development purposes. The same is also applicable for other open-source software meant for video, photo editing, and for productivity.
Moreover, the open-source software developers write the software keeping the advance uses in mind and that is yet another reason, most common users might not be able to use them without proper assistance. So they might have to go through training sessions and it is only after that, they can figure out how to use the software.
On the other hand, due to abundant documentation available for closed-source software, they are relatively easier to use and the software support is also provided so that the users can get started with the software once they get hands on it.
Most closed-source software can also come with a small tutorial so that the users can figure out how to use every single tool available within the software. So when it comes to the complexity of use, closed-source software options are way easier to use, compared to that of open-source software, especially in the case of software that is meant for development purposes and productivity.
7. Overall security of closed and open-source software
Security is something that is really important when it comes to using some software and most companies and individuals are quite concerned about it. In the case of open-source software, what the source code is available to the public, the hackers can easily get access to the source code, and they can use it as an open ground to learn different ways of exploiting the vulnerabilities in that software.
Additionally, if they keep using the software, they can also explore the vulnerabilities, and they will not report the vulnerabilities to the developers, which means, those will remain unpatched in the long run.
That way, open-source software can be vulnerable to attacks. However, there are several open-source developers, who have a separate security audit team that looks after the security of the software and ensure that the software is free from all types of letters vulnerabilities.
In the case of closed-source software, those are developed by big businesses and software organizations, and they employ a big team in most cases to develop one single software. In that large team of developers, there are small sub-teams who will look after every single element within the software, and there should be one team that will look after the security aspect for sure.
Closed-source software is also vulnerable, however, the unavailability of the source code to the public is one reason, why most vulnerabilities are patched before they are found out and the closed-source software developers also hold bug bounty programs.
That way, several security analysts can spend their useful time in finding the vulnerabilities and get bounties in return.
So, considering the steps taken by the closed-source software foundation to safeguard their software, it can be said, closed-source software is more secure compared to that of open-source software.
Hence, both open-source and closed-source software have their own advantages, as well as advantages, and depending upon who you are, which one is better, is a subject to vary. At the end of the day, what matters to most users is, how useful the software is, and how easy it is to use.
To most people, it doesn’t matter, whether it is an open-source or free software as long as they do not have to make any investment to use it. The open-source software has more scopes for development, and that is one of the biggest reasons, why open-source software can sometimes come out to be better than the closed-source counterparts on rare occasions.
There are also several situations when a closed-source option is not available for carrying out certain types of work. For example, if you need to deal with big data, Hadoop is the most reliable tool that you can count on. On the other hand, if you are looking for a free operating system on your computer, Linux, which is an open-source platform is by far the most appropriate option for you.
So, that was all about the differences between open-source and closed-source software. Do you have anything else to say? Feel free to comment on the same below.
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