Why Open Source Software Is Better for the World | by Ben Soyka | Aug, 2022

A look into the benefits, contributors, maintainers, and the future

A neon sign hangs in a window, saying “open” with each letter a different color, including red, yellow, green, and blue.
Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

You’re searching for a new password manager, and you want something secure — and preferably even free.

Eventually, you come across Bitwarden. The company promotes its product as easy, convenient, secure, and — most importantly — open source.

Why is this something to consider when searching for quality software that holds your personal information? Why is it advantageous to everyone involved — even future generations?

Open source software isn’t a different kind of software, but a different ideology — one against secrecy.

“Open-source software is computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose.” (Wikipedia)

Open source makes the world better and benefits everyone.

The ability to examine code can comfort the public.

The most popular software has likely been inspected thousands of times by experienced developers. If something looked fishy, it’d be well-known by now.

In particular, the more love users have given the source code (measured by stars on GitHub, for example), the more reassurance you have that it’s at least decent.

Of course, if you’re building an open source project, then satisfied users lead to excited users, and they’ll recommend your product to bring you even more cheerful users.

Open source projects also provide valuable practice to the developers working on them.

Whether they’re just starting or have been writing code for a long time, helping a developer on a project is always a good way to improve their skills.

In addition to working on programming skills, open-source projects also require constant communication between contributors, improving developers’ soft skills. This can also be immensely useful in other work environments.

Project maintainers — or those in charge of a project’s development — have a lot on their plates. Running a community is hard work when done effectively.

By opening up code contributions to the world, maintainers can focus more on aspects of their projects that others can’t help out with as easily.

Every community and project is different, but project maintenance may include moderation, code review, issue triage, planning, and more.

Leveraging the open source community through crowdsourced work allows maintainers to focus on important behind-the-scenes tasks.

Open source also allows the most important free code to be stored for future generations.

For example, in February 2020, GitHub stored a snapshot of data from every active code repository on their platform in their Artic Code Vault in Svalbard, Norway.

This is meant to be an archive for people up to 1,000 years from now to look back on and understand how we did things in the open source world in 2020.

By making projects open source, not only do we store archives of data to look back on online, there are examples like these code repositories stored in hard copy for a long-term hold.

Open source is better for the world. It gives users the transparency they need, supports developers in their careers, allows maintainers to run smoother projects, and even leaves notes behind for future generations.

To project maintainers everywhere: open up your code.

And to people like you: choose open source software, and support your favorites so they can keep growing to make the world a better place.

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