What is open source software (OSS), and why should you care? Well, open source software development has few limits other than skill limitations and imagination. Despite its appeal, OSS has opponents as well as fans. First, the supporters.
Supporters of the Open Source Model
Most open source software—like WordPress.org—is free to use, and that's a massive attraction. Users can exploit it in any way. That includes studying its human-readable programming language or source code. You can also modify and redistribute all open source software.
WordPress.org was released in May 2003. It has an army of volunteer testers and developers. They continuously check the software, fix bugs, create patches, and roll out updates.
WordPress offers five free guarantees:
- Supports all WP core software
- WP themes, including responsive (mobile-ready) designs
- WP plugins, i.e., the small add-on programs that extend functionality
- Support community and news updates
- Software updates
But is there a price for so many freebies? Here's what the critics say about open source.
Critics of Open Source Technology
Open source is not without opponents. They worry about vulnerability issues due to public accessibility. In other words, they argue that anyone can easily tamper with and hack the open source code. It's true; there are—and always will be—bad actors who want to cause problems. Another negative is that no one's responsible if something breaks or causes damage.
Another downside to open source software is if it goes out of favour. The WordPress community is well-established but not guaranteed. If it suddenly lost appeal and the support community disappeared, there'd be no more updates and security patches. This scenario applies to any open source software that loses appeal and support.
Open Source Vs Closed Source
Closed source is proprietary software and the opposite of open source. It's not usually free to use, and you don't have access to the encrypted source code. The user can't copy, delete or modify any part of closed source software without consequences. At best, any software warranty becomes void. At worst, there could be severe legal repercussions.
Why Is WordPress.org Open Source and Free?
If the open source, self-hosted WordPress blogging platform is so good, then why is it free? It's a good question, and one that every new user asks:
When something sounds far too good to be true, well, it probably is, right. That's usually the case, but WordPress is different, thanks to the community.
Collaboration is key
WordPress is an exception because no individual or company owns it. We call the free software WordPress Core, and it belongs to the non-profit WordPress Foundation. The American entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg founded the WordPress Foundation in 2010. The WP support community includes contributors, developers, and WordCamp organisers.
Dedicated volunteers help to keep the WordPress core new, protected, and always current.
Free to Make Money from WordPress.org
WordPress is free to download, free to modify, and free to redistribute. The WordPress core is published under the GNU General Public License, also called GNU GPL or GPL licensing.
Developers can create custom WordPress blogs, websites, themes, and plugins to sell. The only rule is that the modified premium software stays open source under GNU GPL licenses. That means customers also have free access to premium modified code and change it if they so wish.
Other Costs of Open Source Software
There can be costs on top of open source software. If you want a live website, you must buy a domain. The WordPress system also needs a web server to work, so you need to pay for web hosting. And although there are many free templates and plugins, they might not offer what you need. Premium, supported themes, web applications, and scripts all add to the cost.
And some people and businesses hire internet developers to build custom WP products.
Other Open Source Software
WordPress is one of many freely available open source software initiatives.
Below are 7 other open source projects you may have heard of:
- Linux: a free, open source fully-functional operating system (OS)
- Mozilla Firefox: a customisable web browser
- Gimp: a powerful graphics editing tool
- OpenOffice: a competitor to Microsoft Office
- VLC project: A cross-platform multimedia player
- Python: a general-purpose, high-level coding language
- PHP: scripting language used to create dynamic websites
The list goes on, though these are among the current favourites.
Open source will always be free to download, use, modify, and distribute. You can even sell modified products, providing you abide by the terms of the GPL license. But anyone who wants more than is offered out of the box will need to invest time and money. How much extra costs depends on what you want. It could range from a few dollars to several thousand.