Difference Between Open Source Software and Closed Source Software

Difference Between Open Source Software and Closed Source Software

eCommerce business starter often face a difficult choice between closed source and open source software. The thing is that the choice is not always obvious, as each of the platform has its particularities with a mix of advantages and disadvantages.

In this article we will describe their differences, but before it let’s clarify what open source and closed source platform are.

Open Source and Closed Source

What is Open Source Platform?

Open source is nothing new, even if it is a new topic of discussion. In fact, the internet was built using open source tech.

In general, open source refers to any program whose source code is available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source platform is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available.  

As the platform is open to the public, the result is that it constantly updates, improves and expands as more people can work on its improvement.

Popular types of open-source software are Firefox web browser, Thunderbird email client, PHP scripting language, Python programming language, Apache HTTP web server etc.

Read: Best Open Source eCommerce Platforms to Start Online Business in 2019

Advantage of Open Source Platform

As more businesses discover the considerable advantages of open source solutions hold over their proprietary counterparts, and as the enterprise mentality around open source continues to shift.

Here are some of the reason to choose.

1. Lower costs

The most obvious advantage of open source software is that the products are normally free to download, although it does experience running costs such as storage and computing power. Even those rare paid-for open source software still tend to be far cheaper compared to closed source.

Proprietary vendors don’t only charge for the products purchased but also require pricey upgrades, support services and vendor lock-in costs.

2. No vendor lock-in

Commercial companies produce software according to the ideas and needs of their customers.

Vendors can also reduce support and updates for commercial software that no longer generates enough income to justify their investment and wreak revenge for clients if they stop producing or supporting a product.

Open source software reduces this risk by removing the financial motivations of a regular software business. 

It can also help users to get away monopoly pricing and incompatibilities. Proprietary data formats and systems that exclude competitors have little advantage for open source software developers, who are more willing to support interoperability.

3. Extensive customization

Open source software offers a great degree of customization through access to the source code, and detailed tailoring can normally be done with only limited resources.

If technical skills are insufficient, support is available from the project’s developers, the open source community or any commercial expert who wants the job.

4. A culture of collaboration

Since open source developers are primarily motivated by pride in their work and the opinions of their peers, they tend to focus more on the quality of their product while their commercial rivals can be focused on the bottom line.

They’re also part of a big community that benefits from supporting one another. Many users correct bugs themselves.

5. Higher quality software

The input of a list of developers who are motivated to produce the best software possible will often lead to a superior product.

This standard can be maintained throughout the lifetime of the developed software, as it’s regularly improved by developers as required.

6. Greater security

Open source software exposes vulnerabilities for all to see, so there are many developers looking out for risks. This means that bugs are quickly caught and destroyed.

The smaller size of the open source software community also makes it a less likely target of attacks.

7. Easier to audit

The availability of source code makes it possible for users of open source software to review the security and performance standards.

This allows them to freely discover any shortcomings and make the necessary changes.

8. Regular updates

Proprietary software often has a short life and forces customers to invest in new versions for fixes, features that the original purchase lacked.  

Open source software is normally updated on a regular basis by the developer community, or the user as and when they choose to through their access to the source code.

If the user doesn’t want to update their existing software, they’re free to stick with what they’ve got rather than be imprisoned to the impulse of the vendor.

9. License management

Proprietary software licenses typically have some restrictions on the uses of the product. These include mandatory limits to the number of installations.

Open source licenses come with no such limitations. They’re free to use from numerous geo-locations and on unlimited accounts for as long as the user desires.

10. Quick fixes

Open source software bugs are normally quickly discovered and fixed by the community of developers and users and easy access to the source code.

The fix is often quickly followed by the release of an updated version.

What is Closed Source Software?

Source code is the code written by computer programmers to be “translated” by compilers to “instruct” a computer to carry out certain instructions and actions. It’s the part of the software that a user-level user never sees. By altering a program’s source code, programmers can improve, fix, modify, or add anything on to it as they please.

With closed source software, the source code is not shared with the public for anyone to look at or change, because it’s considered a trade secret that creates scarcity and keeps the organization competitive. Such programs come with some restrictions against modifying the software or using it in ways untended by the original creators.

Examples of proprietary (closed source) software include Microsoft Windows, Adobe Flash Player, PS3 OS, iTunes, Adobe Photoshop, Google Earth, macOS (formerly Mac OS X and OS X), Skype, WinRAR, Oracle’s version of Java and some versions of Unix.

So, when considering open source platform or closed source (proprietary), there are some key differences to take into account before making a decision.

Advantage of Closed Source Software

At a first glance, it may seem that open-source software has more advantage because it’s usually cheaper compared to closed-source software. However, price isn’t the only consideration when choosing any software.

1. Functionality

While open-source software continues to be developed, it doesn’t normally keep up with the times as well as its closed-source competitors.

2. Appealing to Users

Closed-source software is design with users in mind. Not only some programs are easy to use, but they also don’t require any technical knowledge. On the other hand, if you put any non-technical person in front of open-source software, they may not be able to use it correctly.

That’s probably the biggest reason for the wide use of open-source software. IT personnel enjoy making open-source code work for them. In the meantime, the majority of companies prefer closed-source software because the entire company can figure out how to use it from the very first day.

3. Technical Support

Closed-source software requires ongoing technical support for its users. Open-source software provides some support, but it usually comes in the form of documentation and experiences from other users.

4. Security

When it comes to security, closed-source software is usually few steps ahead of open-source software. The appeal of open-source software is the fact that anyone can change the code.

Key Differences Between Open & Closed Source Software

Generally, the key differentiation between open and closed source software come down to a few factors:

  1. Price
  2. Support
  3. Source Code Availability
  4. Usability
  5. Security

Open vs Closed Source Software Difference #1: Price

As we mentioned earlier, open source is often referred as a free of cost software. It can, however, have costs for extra features like assistance, additional services or added functionality. Thus, you may still pay extra for a service with Open Source Software.

Closed source software is usually is a paid software. The costs can vary depending on the functionality of the software. While the price can be higher, but you will get a better product, full support, functionality and innovation. However, most companies provide free trials to convince the user that their software is the right fit.

Open vs Closed Source Software Difference #2: Support

If we compare open source software with closed source software, support is the important factor. Closed software give better support than open source software. The support costs is include to the business in most cases. The response from the support team is well organized and documented.

For open source software(not all) such option is not provided. The only support options are forums and community, useful articles and hire expert. However, it is not surprising and expecting that using such kind of service you will not receive a high level of response.

Open vs Closed Source Software Difference #3: Source Code Availability

Open source software has the ability to change the source code without any restrictions. Individual users can develop as per their requirement and get benefits from innovation developed by others within the user community. As the source code is easily accessible, it enables the software developers to improve the existing programs.

Сlosed source software is more restricted than open source software because the source code cannot be changed, modified or viewed. However, such limitation is the main contribution to Closed Source Software security and reliability.

Open vs Closed Source Software Difference #4: Usability

Usability is a painful matter of open source software. User guides are written for developers rather than to end users. Also, these user manuals are failing to conform to the standards and structure.

For closed source software usability is one of the advantage. Documentation is well-written and contains detailed instructions.

Open vs Closed Source Software Difference #5: Security

The question of security is very much controversial as each software has two sides of the coin. The code of open source software can be viewed, shared, changed and modified by community, which means anyone can fix, upgrade and test the broken code. The bugs are fixed quickly, and the code is checked thoroughly after each version/update release. However, because of availability, the source code is also open for hackers to practice on.

On the other hand, closed source software can be fixed only by a vendor. If something goes wrong with the software, you have to send a request and wait for the answer from the support team. Solving the problem can take much longer than compared to open source software.

When it comes to choosing the most secure software, the answer is that each of them has its merits and demerits. Thus, it is often a challenge for a business company which work in particular industry.

Best Examples of Open Source Software and Closed Source Software shopping carts

The eCommerce market is full of open source and closed source shopping carts. The basic difference lies in the cost. Open source shopping cart systems are free, whereas for closed source software you will have to pay. With payment you will get customer support and confidence. Because open source shopping carts are free, they don’t have such type of option. However, their forums and community is very active and always ready to help.

The advantage of open source solutions are primarily flexibility and scalability. You will have the full control over every aspect of your site’s design. When your business expands, and your monthly sales will increase, you can embrace it without being charged more for increased sales volume.

Closed source software is easier to work with for the beginners or those who don’t know how to code. Also, closed source websites are easier and faster to set up just out of the box.

The top open source shopping carts are WooCommerce, Dokan, Magento and OpenCart, and  BigCommerce and Shopify are popular closed source platforms.

Final remarks

Each of the platform types has its own capability, philosophy, methodology, advantages and disadvantages. There is no uni vocal option as it depends on business requirements. We hope this article will give you the idea to make the right choice for your business.

In case you are interested in integration with eCommerce platforms, try it with Dokan. It provides a single API to work with more shopping carts and marketplaces including Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, OpenCart, PrestaShop and others. Dokan helps to overcome all the challenges related to the process of integration. It will also save your time and development costs.

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