Open-source software are software products that can be used freely, that can be copied, shared, studied, and modified. They are becoming more and more prominent in information technology, as the internet is currently powered by a range of open-source software. Such software includes the Apache webserver software, MySQL’s relational database management system, popular content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal as well as the entire scripting language of PHP. Mobile operating systems Android and the Google Chrome browser are also open-source software. As a matter of fact, we use a whole range of open-source software for our work here, on a daily basis.
It is a common misunderstanding that open-source software are also free, as in free of charge. This is caused by a misleading naming convention as people often a mistake-free source for open-source. Open-source software products can be developed, used, and offered as part of a subscription package with sales and business purposes in mind. Magento for example has an offering that includes a free version and another one that is subject to a yearly license subscription (Open-Source, Commerce, and Adobe Commerce Cloud).
One of the most obvious advantages of using open-source software is cost-efficiency. If we develop a project on a framework, that is widespread and that’s supported by developers around the world, then we can put our money towards the planning of the user experience, the frontend development, and the development of unique functionalities instead. Using such a platform also eliminates the costs of having to create content management systems or e-commerce technologies from scratch.
Another great advantage of open-source is its independence from the supplier. Software products, that are built and developed on open-source are not owned by the web companies, who created them. These products can be ‘carried over’ from one company to another, meaning that in Magento’s case, the client is the actual owner of the product. Some companies that are working with an engine that they have developed themselves, have legal restrictions in place to protect their intellectual property rights and they do not grant access to their source codes, meaning that they cannot be changed or developed further by others.
In the case of implementing a closed source software, the client only owns certain rights of the developed website, unless specified otherwise in the contract – in other words, they essentially only gain usage rights. This means, that the client can use the software itself, but further adjustments and developments can only be carried out by the company, who supplied the product. In some other, exceptional cases, the implementation contract of the developed software can transfer the ownership rights to the client, meaning that the project is a unique development process as part of a commissioned arrangement. Even in these cases, however, some copyrights are still inalienable to the supplier company.
For websites that are built on an open-source platform, such as Magento, this isn’t an issue at all. The developer company doesn’t have to grant the base software’s ownership rights to the client, as it’s a communal software product, meaning that the developers don’t own these either – in other words, there is nothing to be transferred.
Further development opportunities
It is quite clear, that by using closed source software (such as pre-developed webshops or unique developments) we are limiting ourselves in the long run. Of course, this would not necessarily be an issue in case of a perfectly developed product, but the market changes dynamically and in a way that requires constant and quick actions. Pre-developed, ‘boxed’ webshop solutions could prove to be more of a limitation than an advantage. Also, if the supplier is not developing its products with the right ‘intensity’ the client might get stuck with such technologies – in these cases, the developments must be carried out as they were contractually set out by the copyright owner, instead of focusing on business priorities.
The open-source format of Magento allows the addition of extensions, that were created by external developers – this means that the basic set of functionalities, developed by the creator of the original framework can be extended. The business model of open-source software can often be found at the Magento Marketplace: by granting access to the source code, they create opportunities for other developers to deliver new functionalities that can later be monetized.
These extensions and functionalities are very varied and are all accessible through Magento Marketplace. The open-source nature of Magento and the fact that they have a global network of developers, resulted in such a high number of add-on options, that none of the local development companies would be able to tackle them all, on their own. Open-source, in other words, creates endless possibilities for a framework system to have an extended market of its own.