Across Open-Source Software And Community Collaboration V. Proprietary Software And Corporate Control
In the 21st century, in almost every field, software has become one of the
most essential tools of development of society. The digital age has provided
various opportunities to work, live and explore far beyond what was capable for
the generations that have gone by.
Software is present from smallest parts such as our watches, mobile phones to
seamless internet connectivity and analyzing data coming from around the world.
Software has played a pivotal role in modernizing education, business, finance,
healthcare, defense sectors and beyond. As the world gets more and more
interconnected, this pivotal role of software will only increase and effective
use of it will transform the ways of daily life rapidly.
The development of software as we understand it is divided into two contrasting
models, namely, open-source software and proprietary software. Both these
distinct models in the realm of software development have their own
characteristics and implications.
Open-Source Software And Proprietary Software
Open-source software refers to such programs whose source code is easily
available to the public at large, thus allowing them to modify, distribute and
use it according to their desire. This fosters collaborative innovation,
community-centric development as well as vast and easy access to people. Most
notable examples of open-source software include ANDROID, LINUX etc.
Proprietary software contrary to open-source software is developed and owned by
an organization with a motive to generate revenue from the same. It controls the
access of the software, which can only be obtained by licenses to use under
specific terms and conditions that are stated by the company.
Another differentiating feature between the two models of software development
include after-sales services provided, as the proprietary software often comes
with dedicated customer support as well as regular updates to fix bugs and to
eliminate other malwares. Most notable examples of proprietary software include
MacOS, WINDOWS, ADOBE Suite, etc.
In the modern world, software development has on a volume-based analysis, been
based largely on the concept of open-source software. Open-source software or
OSS for short has emerged as the leading form of software development, scrutiny
and modification. It resembles the philosophy of transparency, collaboration and
community-driven development of the field.
It distinguishes itself from its proprietary counterpart on the notion that it
is available at public at large. The term "open source" was first used in late
20th century for a concept developed in the tech community. The main principle
lies in the transparency this type of software aims for, the free availability
for scrutiny, modification and distribution it promotes.
This type of software also come with certain license terms that the
organizations using such open-source software need to abide by, these include
terms such as that the principles of openness should be maintained and such
derivative works also be distributed under the same principles of openness.
Unlike proprietary software, where a highly strict control is maintained over
the source code, the open-source software is available and developed in a
decentralized manner. This manner has its advantages such as accelerating the
development of the software, providing it a global platform, harnessing data as
well as building a global community.
At the very heart of this type of software, lies a distinctive philosophy that
strives for the idea that a software should be accessible to all, modified by
all and the infinite knowledge should not be restricted in the hands of only a
few, rather this knowledge shall be shared to all in order to come up with more
precise and effective solutions to the issues we face in our lives.
Developers from all across the world come together to bring various skills to
the table and contribute in every manner they can. This global community
promotes active participation from developers, users etc. It means that a direct
impact is evident on the outcome of the development process.
Providing support, identifying bugs, introducing new features etc. are ensured
by a team comprising of people with different backgrounds and different ideas
they pursue about the development of the software, unlike in the case of
proprietary software development where the team is selected and the work plan is
meticulously developed to the minute details.
The model of open-source development of the software has produced various
software which have become the essential parts of the technological fabric. The
LINUX OS is a UNIX-like kernel that was developed by Linus Torvalds. It is one
of the most famous success stories of open-source software.
LINUX is a prime example of a software that has the scalability and security,
achieved with the collaborative efforts of many developers from around the
globe. Mozilla Firefox is an open-source web browser which has played a pivotal
role in ensuring privacy of its users as well as maintaining web standards.
Firefox is a user-centric alternative to proprietary browser and embodies the
principles of openness and user empowerment. Another successful example of
open-source software is the Apache HTTP Server, the base of the World Wide Web.
It was developed and is maintained by a community of developers that cross the
national and international borders and its consistency and large availability
has made it the preferred choice for websites to use their domain.
Hence, the underlying characteristics of collaboration, transparency as well as
community-centric development have resulted in software projects such as LINUX,
Apache, Firefox to serve as the guiding lights of how crucial a role is played
by open-source software in the modern world.
Proprietary software is owned and distributed by a specific entity that
regulates the terms under which it is being licensed. It is sometimes also
referred as closed source software. Intellectual property rights play a key role
in safeguarding the exclusivity and the business prospects that a proprietary
software aims to bring with itself.
At the very core, a proprietary software is defined by an exclusive ownership
right and a control over the distribution by an entity. The source code of the
software, unlike the open-source software is not made available to the public at
large. This results in restrictions over the users to modify and redistribute
the software. The only way in which a user can get access to such software is by
the licensing model through which it is made available.
Such licenses in most scenarios come with limits on the duration over which such
software will be accessible, the restrictions against reverse-engineering the
software etc. Proprietary software particularly focuses on a seamless user
experience and thus inherently invests more on customer support services and
The source of the proprietary software is considered as an intellectual property
and thus is covered with the legal protection of intellectual property rights.
It plays a key role in ensuring the investment sources have a sense of
exclusivity and uniqueness in the software.
This provides the owners of the proprietary software with the exclusive right to
reproduce, distribute and share such software with the users. Such a legal
protection also means that any unauthorized duplication of the work can be
effectively tackled and legal action against individuals that infringe upon such
rights can be dealt with systematically.
There are various models via which the proprietary software is licensed in order
to maximize its commercial viability. It varies from sales of software licenses
to users for one-time payments to subscription models where the users pay on
regular intervals to use the software. These are coupled with strategically
targeting the right price points to cater to a diverse user base which can
purchase or subscribe to the model which provides them with the best user
experience according to their needs.
Proprietary software such as MS Office which are widely used in various
industries and act as basic norms for effective conduct of work often lead to
partnerships and alliances between such industries and the corporations who own
such software. This type of partnership not only increases the usage and
visibility of the software but more importantly also boosts the sales of
complementary products such as Anti-Virus Software, insurance of the hardware
and software components etc.
There are various advantages and disadvantages of both the Open-Source Software
as well as the Proprietary Software.
Advantages And Challenges Of Open-Source Software
One of the primary advantages of open-source software is cost-effectiveness of
the entire system, where the users come together as a team and the data
generated as a whole is used to refine the software in a continuous fashion.
This often results in a sense of shared ownership over such software by the
users actively participating in such processes.
Another benefit of open-source software is the range of customization that is
available at the outset as the users are given freedom to modify the software so
it can meet their specific demands. This helps in tailoring the software in
accordance to one's workflows and seamlessly align itself with the existing
pieces of software.
However, security concerns often loom around the nature of open code used for
development of such software. Being accessible by a vast group of users, it
means that such transparency can ultimately lead to vulnerabilities such as
viruses, bugs to be exposed to a vast number of users and timely identification
as well as resolution is a must in such cases.
Advantages And Challenges Of Proprietary Software
A closed-source nature of the proprietary software ensures that the software
provider corporation sits in a flush position as it acts as the sole authority
providing solutions for issues that can range from regular updates, guidance,
comprehensive assistance etc.
Such a meticulous research and design process leads to results that are
intuitive and user-friendly even at the starting juncture of a user's first
interaction with a software. Dedicated support ensures that the retaining power
of the corporation remains at a very high percentage as well.
However, the costs incurred in order to maintain the services as well as the
secrecy also play a crucial role in determining the pricing and licensing
strategies for the corporations that do not have vast pool of financial backing
to be able to incur losses at the cost of gaining market share in the initial
Limited customization also acts as another challenge that plagues proprietary
software as the ability to modify and change the source code solely lies with
the owner of such software and is not shared with the users who license the
Further, the interdependencies of software and hardware in the use of exclusive
features and data formats often end up creating technological entrenchment
scenarios where, transition to another software and hardware gets very
difficult. An apt example for this is how difficult it becomes for an
Android/WINDOWS user to shift to Apple ecosystem and vice-versa.
Both open-source software as well as proprietary software seem to provide
effective solutions for a user, and both come with their own advantages and
disadvantages. Open-source software thrives on cost-effectiveness, wide usage,
customization as well as community support, but also lacks effective security
measures to deal with bugs and viruses that can lead to concerns for a large
pool of users before it is effectively tackled with.
On the other hand, proprietary software aims at a premium interface, dedicated
support, exclusive features as well as secure software that can effectively deal
with threats such as bugs and viruses. However, the fact that proprietary
software comes at a significant premium of price and many restrictions over the
usage as well as customization aspect cannot be obscured.
It ultimately depends on the user to identify their primary usage, in order to
choose from one of the above or in some cases, a combination of both.
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