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What is the Open Source Community?

By Nathan Spicer
Updated May 16, 2024
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"Open source" software is generally defined as computer software for which the source code is available for free to anyone who is interested. In practice, this means software gets developed using code any interested party can access. Such transparency creates a trust in the developer, because anyone interested can investigate the code to try to discover any malware, adware, or other detrimental features. An open source community is one that centers around open source software.

Members of an open source community believe in the significance of software remaining transparent. One example is the Open Source Initiative (OSI), a non-profit corporation that advocates open source and attempts to forge relationships between members of open source communities. This organization supports the promise that open source leads to improved quality and reliability, as well as better pricing.

The Open Source Initiative claims that the term "open source" does not always relate specifically to source code. Instead, they include a multitude of other rules that certify something is open source. Such rules include specifics about derived works, discrimination, restrictive licensing, and others.

The open source community has contributed to a number of developments in several major software fields, such as video games. The title Warsow generated some notoriety with its release, especially because of its open source nature, which allowed the community around the game to collaborate and decide upon the best approaches to different facets of design and implementation. Another recognized title is Nexuiz. Communities have developed around both of these titles because of their development process.

The open source method works differently from the traditional centralized development strategies that have prevailed in the past. In those centralized processes, commands and approaches are commonly dictated by one or a few people. With open source communities, however, the process is far more collaborative and all-inclusive. Anyone involved can have a say in the procedures and techniques, and anyone involved can at least try to create new features or improve existing code.

The series of checks and balances associated with any kind of development usually rests with a "boss" or "manager" of sorts. In an open source community, the checks and balances are automated due to the pervasive nature of open source development. With so many users able to access the code, no one gains an excessive amount of control over the project because any attempt to do so would be recognized by the community and stopped. An inherent amount of trust exists in communities associated with open source development, because with everyone and anyone having the ability to look behind the scenes, hidden agendas are not a possibility.

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