Open-Source Software

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What Does Open-Source Software Mean?

Open-source software (OSS) is software that is distributed with source code that may be read or modified by users.

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The OSS community generally agrees that open-source software should meet the following criteria:

  • The program must be freely distributed
  • Source code must be included with the program
  • Anyone must be able to modify the source code
  • Modified versions of the source code may be redistributed

As well, an open-source software license must not require the exclusion of, or interfere with, the operation of other software.

Techopedia Explains Open-Source Software

Unlike traditional software distributed in an unchangeable compiled format, open-source software is delivered with both compiled and non-compiled formats, allowing open code modification. In traditional software licenses, this privilege would be reserved for copyright holders.

Not all software developers favor the use of open-source software, but many have accepted it because it allows for quicker repair of software issues and may ultimately lead to higher quality applications.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.