Laser Technik Ltd

Providing Internet services for over a quarter of a century

Open Source software 

Much of the software on which websites rely is Open Source.  What does that mean? To many it means “free”.  It is but that’s not the point. Anyone can view the underlying program code (although only experienced programmers will be able to make much sense of it).  Open Source is not entirely free, it is subject to a license, possibly one of the GPL – General Public Licenses (see below).

A skilled programmer can earn several hundred pounds a day.  Many of the global IT corporations too contribute to Open Source often by allowing their teams to work on Open Source projects in company time. Others are staff and students in major educational institutions. So you are perhaps wondering why anyone would invest their time and talent in working on something that is ultimately given away free.   It’s complicated.  Open Source benefits the whole community and the more diverse inputs to the system the stronger it becomes.  Let’s take the Linux operating system, the Apache web server software and the MySQL database.  Most modern web sites rely on these.  Its valuable to anyone developing  application software to have a standard robust infrastructure. By participating in the work on those underlying open source programs those developers get a degree of influence over future changes some of which will help their application software work better. It also earns them a reputation and opens opportunities for employment on related tasks.

People used to be worried about Open Source, if you’ve not paid for it how do you complain if it fails.  In practise support for extensively used Open Source projects such as WP can be better than for products from the big IT multinationals.  A global network of coders is on the case 24×365, problems are often fixed within hours of being identified. Advanced technical support is commercially available from those coders should it be necessary.  Report an obscure issue with Microsoft Excel and you could wait years to see a fix.

Another concern is that if anyone can examine the Open Source code, might that enable them to spot weaknesses and exploit them. The answer is yes but there are thousands of other coders searching for issues to fix in the code with good intentions. Sure a hacker might find a weakness but as soon as he attempts to exploit it the community will detect and fix the flaw.

GPL (General Public License) 

GPL (General Public License)  is one of several open source licensing models, there are alternatives suited to a range of different situations. In essence open source means that software is distributed freely, but there are limits on how it can be used. One common limitation is that the software cannot be offered for sale.

CC (Creative Commons”) licenses are comparable but generally relate to other types of material such as images or text.  If you wish to use a photo on a website or in print you may find it is subject to a commercial license and a fee is payable. A CC license may allow you to use an image without payment but subject to conditions such as including a credit to the originator and not selling the image or any product that uses it.