Back to Blog

Open Source vs Proprietary Software

Open Source and Proprietary Software

A perennial debate rages on in IT, spotlighting the fundamental choice between open-source and proprietary solutions. It's a tug-of-war between freedom and control. With its transparent code and collaborative ethos, open-source software is a beacon for a community-driven future. On the other hand, proprietary software, fortified by carefully guarded code and formidable resources, promises a controlled environment.

As the digital landscape evolves, this debate continues to shape the very foundation of the technological infrastructure, leaving us to ponder: in this fast-paced digital age, which path should we tread for the future of innovation and progress? Join us on a journey through the intriguing world of open-source versus proprietary, where the stakes are high, the ideologies fierce, and the potential consequences monumental.

What is Open Source Software?

The term open source refers to computer programs distributed along with their source code, making them free and available to view, use, modify, and share. The open-source technology software fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation, allowing developers to contribute to its improvement collectively.

A prime example is the Mozilla Firefox web browser or Linux Operating System, where the open-source code is accessible, enabling developers to enhance its features, fix bugs, and tailor it to specific user needs. This collaborative approach has not only led to a secure and efficient browsing experience for millions.

Types of Open Source Software Licenses

You must have thought: "So it's as simple as making a computer program and launching it to the market?" It's a little bit more complicated than that. First, you must consider the type of license under which you want to distribute your software. These open-source licenses serve as a backbone, providing the framework for sharing, modifying, and distributing digital creations. Some of the most common open-source permits include MIT License, GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.0, Apache License 2.0, GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.0, and BSD License 2.0 (3-clause, New or Revised).

Pros and Cons of Open-Source Software

Pros of Open-Source Software

● Accessibility. Open-source products are typically freely available to anyone who wants to use it. This focus on accessibility reduces barriers to entry and promotes widespread adoption.

● Transparency. As anyone can see, open-source solutions foster trust. Users can see what the software does and whether it contains any security vulnerabilities or malicious code.

● Security and licensing terms. People usually think that open-source software is insecure as its source code is, well, open. However, this feature allows developers to find and fix bugs and vulnerabilities faster. Additionally, this software is distributed under various user license agreements (EULA) outlining the terms and conditions under which they use, modify, and distribute it, ensuring it remains open and accessible.

● Community support. The open-source community of developers encourages collaboration among developers, fostering a culture of shared knowledge and collective problem-solving, which often leads to software’s rapid development and improvement.

Cons of Open-Source Software

● Limited Support. In many cases, open-source projects rely on community support rather than dedicated customer service. While there may be forums and community-driven help, it might not match the technical support offered by proprietary software vendors.

● Compatibility Issues. It might face challenges when interacting with certain proprietary systems. Compatibility issues can arise, especially in industries or organizations with prevalent software.

● Documentation and Training: While some open-source projects have excellent documentation, others may lack comprehensive guides or tutorials. It can make it more challenging for users to get started or troubleshoot issues.

● Security Concerns. Praising open-source software for its transparency and vulnerabilities is normal. However, not all projects have a robust security auditing process, and not all users have the expertise to secure and maintain it properly.

It's important to note that these potential drawbacks are not universal to all open-source projects, and many have overcome or mitigated these issues. Additionally, the benefits of open-source software often outweigh these concerns for many users and organizations.

What is Proprietary Software?

Proprietary, closed-source, or commercial software is computer software privately owned and controlled by a single entity or organization, typically a proprietary software company, usually under copyright law. The defining characteristic of this software is that its source code, the human-readable instructions that make up the program, is kept confidential and is not made available to the public. This software has strong intellectual property protections and non-disclosure agreements to prevent the study, modification, and redistribution.

Microsoft Windows is a prime example of a proprietary technology model. Microsoft Corporation develops and owns Windows. Users must purchase licenses to use Windows, and they are subject to Microsoft's terms and conditions, which govern how the software can be used and distributed. Remembering that you don't "own" Windows even after buying a license is important. This model allows Microsoft to control the software's development process, distribution, and support. It also means that users have limited flexibility and cannot change the Windows operating system themselves. Popular examples of proprietary software programs include Oracle, SAP ERP, Cisco Networking Equipment and Software, Bitdefender, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Creative Cloud, and IBM SPSS.

Pros and Cons of Proprietary Software

Pros of Proprietary Software

Polished User Experience (UX). It is often meticulously designed, resulting in a user-friendly interface and a seamless overall experience. It can lead to higher levels of user satisfaction and seamless UX.

● Comprehensive Support. Companies behind this software typically offer dedicated customer support, which includes technical assistance, troubleshooting, and official access to extensive documentation.

● Security and Stability. Proprietary products are developed and maintained by a single entity, which can lead to a more controlled environment, resulting in enhanced security measures and a higher stability level than some open-source alternatives.

● Vendor Accountability. When using proprietary services, there is a clear point of contact for accountability from the proprietary vendor that owns and develops the software. It can lead to clearer lines of responsibility for support, updates, and bug fixes.

Cobs of Proprietary Software

● Limited Customization. Users of thos softwarecan't customize or modify the source code or any other source component to meet specific needs. They must rely on the range of features and capabilities the commercial software vendor provides.

● Licensing Costs. Proprietary software licenses often come with a price tag. Licensing costs and additional charges for support and updates can add up, potentially posing a financial burden for individual and business practices.

● Lack of Transparency. The source code access and other essential components of proprietary licenses are confidential, which means users cannot view or assess how the program functions at its core. This lack of transparency can concern those who value openness and transparency.

● Potential for Discontinuation. Suppose a company discontinues a proprietary software product. In that case, users may find themselves without access to critical updates or support, leading to security vulnerabilities and compatibility issues in the long run, a disadvantage for businesses and Software Developers.

Proprietary Software vs Open-Source Software

Weighting the pros and cons of each type of software and deciding based on your specific needs is not easy. There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best choice for a given organization or person will depend on several factors. Some critical factors to consider are the organization's budget, its existing IT infrastructure, the level of technical expertise it has, and the type of data it needs to protect. You must research to ensure you choose between proprietary and open-source software.

Is Open Source Software free?

In short, Yes. Open-source software is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and update in any way to encourage individuals to enhance the software's design voluntarily. The source code is also made available for everyone to use.

What is the Open Source Initiative?

The open-source movement is a global movement to promote the use and development of open-source software. It encourages people worldwide to collaborate on software projects, allowing for faster innovation and development due to the collective effort of many individuals working together.

Can Open Source Become Proprietary?

The short answer to this question is yes. This software can turn into proprietary. It happens when current owners make legal decisions to change the original copyright holder to someone who changes the software distribution rules of future versions. The modified piece of software then becomes the proprietary version, which people can't share freely with others anymore.

Why do people Use Proprietary Software?

In some situations, developers or businesses may choose proprietary products over open-source programs for working on projects because of their reliability and diversity of features. Tony Morantes, developer at Capicua, said: "I once used a free image editor, and it was awful. Once I tried a paid one, I can say that they provide better experiences and more features."


The decision to use one or the other comes down to the user's needs and preferences in the software industry. For example, open-source software is likely their best choice if a company has a low budget and needs access to the source code form of the program so they can add certain features. On the other hand, if a company needs an easy-to-use interface and doesn't need access to a portion of software code, closed-source software might be the best option. When deciding which one to use for your project, the key is weighing the pros and cons of open-source and proprietary software.