Dirk Riehle's Industry and Research Publications

Why use open-source software?

Part 1
Open-source software

Chapter 2
Free and open-source software

  1. Why use open-source software?
  2. Intellectual property rights
  3. Open-source software licenses
  4. End-users and distributors
  5. The copyleft obligation

Chapter 3
The open source program office

Chapter 4
The software bill of materials

Chapter 5
License compliance

Chapter 6
Supply chain security

Open-source software succeeded, because of the benefits it provides to users, and despite the challenges it poses.

The main benefit of using open-source software for a user is that they avoid vendor lock-in. They can use the software under defined and beneficial circumstances (the open source license) and do not depend on a vendor.

The lack of vendor lock-in creates the following three more specific reasons for using open-source software in projects and products:

  1. Free of charge. As already mentioned, open-source software can be used free of charge. There are no license fees. 

While the use of open-source software can create secondary costs (for example, maintenance costs), the total cost of using the software is usually much lower than licensing a closed-source software from a vendor.

  1. Option to adapt to your needs. Open-source software is available in source code form and comes with the right to adapt the software to your needs.

If you were locked-in to some vendor’s closed-source software, you’d have to ask and pay them for any modifications you might need, and there is no guarantee that they will create those modifications for you. With open-source software, you can simply make the necessary changes yourself or hire someone to do it for you. 

  1. Operational safety. Open-source software does not come with an end date. The usage rights are given to you forever. 

Even if you buy a perpetual license from a vendor and start using a closed-source software in projects and products, the vendor might still discontinue the software or even go out of business. There is no guarantee that the software will be maintained, no guarantee that bugs will be fixed, etc. Open source, in contrast, will always be available as long as there are copies, and you can always help yourself.

This benefit is particularly important for long-lived products like mobility solutions (cars, trains, planes, etc.) because these products easily outlive the suppliers of the software components to these long-lived products.

There are many other reasons why people use and also contribute to open-source software. They may be learning something of interest to them, and they are contributing to software as a shared common good. Some even argue that open source project communities will ultimately be more innovative than closed-source software vendors. 

There are many more economic reasons beyond avoiding vendor lock-in, why other vendors should be using, contributing to, and leading open source projects. They are discussed in more detail in the third part of the book on open source economics. Before we can get there, we have to discuss, however, how open source works.



To be done.