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6 reasons to trust open source software

You may be hesitant to use free and open source software, especially since most of the code comes from volunteers. In most areas of our lives, having a product from a well-known company is a plus. It’s how you believe something is done well.

Why trust code from some volunteers over high-quality software from Microsoft, Apple, and Google experts?

As the tech giants have shown us, their software can be reliable, but it often comes with all sorts of snooping and other forms of exploitation. Open source software is actually much safer to use, and here’s why.

1. Open source is code you can trust

The fundamental problem with most software supplied by large, well-known technology companies is that the source code is hidden from view. This is confidential information and you may have trouble viewing, modifying or redistributing the code.

Your only option is to use the software as is and be sure it is secure, or you may not use the software instead.

This type of code is known as closed source software. Because you can’t see the code, you have no way of knowing exactly what the program is doing. This gives companies the freedom to do anything that can increase their bottom line.

That’s why the apps we use track our behavior, track our location, and in other ways try to keep track of what we’re doing. This information is valuable for companies to sell to data brokers or use to sell ads.

Let’s say an open source application wanted to introduce the same way of collecting data. Well, few people actually want to be followed. We value our privacy, so when we have the opportunity to remove code that tracks our behavior, we do so.

Because the source code is available for editing and redistribution, someone comes in and uses the code to create a new (sometimes nearly identical) application with unnecessary bits removed. This process is known as branching and discourages bad behavior.

As in other areas of our lives, transparency encourages people to behave better and achieve better results.

2. Big companies? They all trust open source

What is the first company that comes to your mind when you think of big tech? Amazon? Facebook? An Apple? All three companies use open source software to some extent and contribute to certain projects. And they are not alone.

Consider how Microsoft is investing in the Linux kernel (an open source operating system) to make Azure an attractive cloud computing product. Google uses Linux not only in the cloud, but also on Chromebooks and Android. All of the companies listed below were Platinum members of the Linux Foundation in early 2023.

Valve pays developers to improve all open source software that makes Steam Deck possible. In addition, there are giant corporations that work more with other enterprises than with ordinary consumers, such as Oracle and IBM. Both use and develop open source software.

The Internet itself is largely built on an open source architecture. Web developers are familiar with the so-called LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), which they often use as the foundation for websites and web applications. All four components are open source.

Developers and companies trust open source software because it is reliable, easier than developing an alternative from scratch, and often better than something they could develop on their own. When you use their products, at some point in the chain you often still rely on open source, even if the end result has a proprietary layer on top.

3. We all invest in the same code

When source code is in the public domain, it becomes a kind of public domain. Some open source technologies are more like infrastructure. As with public roads, we all invest in sustainable infrastructure, individuals and corporations alike.

So while most open source software is created by volunteers, a lot of it is also created by paid employees. For example, the Linux kernel is used in both supercomputers and mobile phones. Everyone, from manufacturers to scientists, has reasons to patch the Linux kernel, adding features or fixing bugs.

Even when companies create products that compete with each other in the market, they still invest in the open source software they use to be as good and stable as possible.

Many open source programs are even distributed under copyleft licenses that require people using the code to publicly share their modifications. This prevents anyone from taking the code and hiding it in their own personal creation. Instead, they come back, the program gets better, and we all benefit.

4. The software is (usually) free

Most open source programs are free to use, but this is a feature that doesn’t stand out as much as it used to. Most programs don’t have a price tag these days. But there is a difference. Closed source software is often free because the developers have found another way to profit from the project, usually by collecting and selling or otherwise using data about us.

When you use Google Docs, every keystroke is available to Google for registration and monetization in any way. Google can make more money by getting as many people as possible to use Google Docs than by selling software to a minority who would be willing to pay for it.

Open source software is indeed provided free of charge, with no strings attached. When you use LibreOffice, no one knows what you are doing with this software.

LibreOffice is free because in a world where so much is done on computers, it can be considered unfair to force people to choose between buying expensive software or controlling their personal behavior so they can participate in society. This brings us to the next point.

The world of open source software is governed by a different set of rules than the world of proprietary software. Many people who create FOSS do it because they think it’s ethical. Sometimes it’s about making money, but most of the time it’s not. People often create and share their code out of the goodness of their hearts.

This does not mean that people are selfless. There are many benefits besides money. Many people learn to code by looking at source code that is already available, and they want to repay. Others have capitalized on paid open source alternatives that they couldn’t afford and want to create similar software for people like them.

Some people just like having the freedom to do whatever they want with the software on their machines, and they can’t imagine putting limits on themselves or others.

Users impose strict standards on software developers. People resent changes that people don’t pay attention to in the proprietary software world, like when Canonical added Amazon recommendations to Ubuntu (which they ended up removing).

In the free software world, the default assumption is that you don’t restrict who has access to your application, restrict how it can be used, or monitor their behavior.

6. Open source software has stood the test of time

Many open source projects have been around for decades. Consider Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Audacity and VLC. These are programs that have gradually become better, acquiring new features and getting rid of old bugs. The same can be said for background software like the Linux kernel or desktop environments like GNOME and KDE. This software is mature and proven.

This does not mean that there is no stable closed source software that has been around for many years. There is. But you already trust proprietary software. The fact is that many open source programs are just as, if not more, time-tested.

It’s also worth noting that in the world of proprietary software, when a company goes bust, its software disappears. If someone has not bought the rights, no one will see the code. He just disappears.

With open source software, the project may become unsupported and versions will stop appearing. But the code continues to exist and some people may use it to create new software. Thus, even if an application appears to be dead, its code can live.

Open source software – reliable software

Open source software doesn’t always offer the most features or the best performance. There are many proprietary programs out there that outperform the competition. But when it comes to trust, this is the area where open source software serves the best.

It’s not after your data. He doesn’t want to show you ads. It doesn’t try to lock you into an ecosystem. If you want to use your computer with peace of mind, free and open source software is the way to go.

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