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What the Tech is… Open Source?

We’re back with another edition of our #WhatTheTech series, where we transform tech jargon into a language you can easily understand. Today we go over our first term that’s more of a tech concept rather than an actual piece of technology — open source.

Miss any other posts in our series? Study up on cloud computing, workflow automation, and NLP.

#WhatTheTech is open source?

In tech, open source refers to making the source code of a software program accessible to anyone, instead of limiting it as a proprietary solution. While an open-source solution can be edited by any user, a proprietary solution can only be modified by the original owner of the software. So, open-source software is a product that is publicly available and can be used, changed, or modified, and even contributed back to the original solution via appropriate review processes.

Think of open-source software (OSS) as recipes. Some recipes are proprietary; they’re family secrets or formulas kept private by restaurants, but they’re still enjoyed by hungry eaters. And some recipes are open source — available online, in a cookbook, and free to use in their original form or modified for taste.

How does open source work?

Let’s look at the 10 criteria OSS must abide by according to The Open Source Initiative, a nonprofit organization, and the leading authority on OSS.

  1. Free redistribution: The software license must be allowed to be redistributed with no charge.
  2. Source code: The code for the software must be included and cannot be hidden in any way.
  3. Derived works: The software must allow modifications and can be customized to the needs of the user.
  4. Integrity of the author’s source code: Users have the right to know who created the source code they use and authors have a right to know how their software is being used.
  5. No discrimination against persons or groups: The license must not discriminate against any person or group.
  6. No discrimination against fields of endeavor: The license cannot discriminate against anyone that adapts the source code for their specific field of work, business, or organization.
  7. Distribution of license: The rights of the program must also apply to anyone who redistributes it without the need for another license.
  8. License must not be specific to a product: Use of the program is not tied to a certain product; all users who redistribute the program have the same rights as the author.
  9. License must not restrict other software: The program cannot have restrictions on other types of software used with it.
  10. License must be technology-neutral: The program cannot be restricted to use on a certain piece of technology or interface.

Once a developer establishes the license for their software as open-source, anyone can use the software in its original form or adjust the source code as needed to remove bugs, improve functions or adjust it to their specific needs. This collaboration effectively enables continuous OSS improvement over time from a wide community of programmers, often speeding up development and encouraging innovation.

How do businesses use open source?
Whether it’s an open-source internet browser like Mozilla Firefox or an online training program built with the source code of Moodle, businesses leverage OSS every single day.

OSS is also an integral part of many workflow tools that automate business processes, including robotic process automation (RPA), work platform connectors, and automated documentation generators. A few types of OSS used for these tools include:

  • Python: An open-source interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language that is key to automation.
  • OpenAPI Specification: A specification for machine-readable interface files that helps generate documentation of processes, and connects third-party platforms and services to your business workflow.
  • ApexMocks: A mocking framework for the Salesforce Lightning Apex language used for document generators.
  • Lax: A Lightning Component that writes clear asynchronous JavaScript code in document generators.

Follow our blog for more technology 101 in our #WhatTheTech series.


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