What is "open source" software?

Traditionally software developers keep program code secret so no one else can copy their hard work. Open source software turns that model upside down, and makes the source code available for anyone to see. The idea is that the more people that get involved in the development of a program, the better it will be. Open source technically does not mean "free" but the vast majority of open software is licensed so anyone may use it for free, and modify the software if desired. The Mozilla web browsers and e-mail clients, the OpenOffice application suite, the MySQL database server, and Linux are some common examples.

August 2004

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