Open-Source software refers to computer software that has its source code openly available to different developers and the general public, so that they may view, edit and distribute their own version of the software to the public. Open-Source software encourages collaboration between different developers, and can be a great way to help budding software builders learn by understanding the inner workings of different programs.
“Open-Source” does not necessarily mean “Free”. Originally, the Open-Source software movement was started under the name “Free Software Foundation”, but the name was a bit misleading. The folks behind the Free Software Foundation didn’t intend it to be taken as “not having to pay for” software, but instead having the freedom to distribute and edit the software. Since a lot of Open-Source software happens to be free to use as well, the two meanings are often used interchangeably.
At the end of the 1990s, the Open-Source Initiative was officially formed. Although many larger software companies, Microsoft included, viewed the OSI as a threat to software and intellectual property businesses, Netscape’s CEO saw the value, and consequently released Netscape Navigator’s source code into the open source world. This source code formed the basis for Mozilla’s web browser and mail client, Firefox and Thunderbird, which are both still in use and evolving to this day.
A few examples of Open-Source software aside from Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird include: the Google Chrome web browser; OpenOffice and LibreOffice, which are full office suites similar to Microsoft Office; Blender, a powerful 3D modeling simulator software; GIMP and Inkscape, similar to Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator; GNU/Linux Operating system, and the mobile OS Android; and countless computer based, internet based, and mobile based video games and apps.