What is Open Source?
The term open source refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible. Open source software allows people to view, modify, copy and share the computer code on which it is powered. It benefits from the promise of transparency, higher quality, better reliability, greater flexibility, lower cost, and no predatory vendor lock-in. For software to be truly open-source it complies with these ten criteria.
Why Should I Care?
You have more control over open source software. Its code can be examined to make sure it’s not doing anything it shouldn’t be (spying, hacking etc.)
Decentralised platforms are not owned by a single entity: Not by one person, group or company. As users we have little or no control over a privately owned platform. Certain rules may be imposed and certain vested interests may be (and often are) served. Even if a platform is seemingly benevolent the fact that it is privately owned means it can (and probably will) be sold at some point to the highest bidder (usually one of the big bad lads!)
Open-Source software is totally transparent, meaning anyone can check the full code and ensure there are no nasty spy back doors or criminal attacks built in. This makes it incredibly secure. Because anyone can view and modify it, anyone can spot and correct genuine errors or omissions that the original author may have missed. So many programmers can work on any piece of open source software without the need for permission, meaning these fixes, updates and upgrades happen a lot more quickly than in privately owned software.
Open-Source software is adaptable, by anyone, which means its constantly evolving, building strength upon strength with improvements and fixes being offered up by the community. In short it is democratic rather than despotic. Additionally, open source software tends to both incorporate and operate according to open standards.
Where Can I Use It?
You’re using it now, by reading this website, which is built using WordPress. WordPress is built by an open source community of passionate contributors with decades of experience who are committed to keeping it as stable and secure as possible.
To complete this step I would encourage you to swap out privately owned software for open source alternatives as much as you can. Below is a list of some commonly used software that could easily be swapped. If you use any of the software on the left see if you can make a shift to one of the corresponding ones on the right instead…
Calendar -> thegood.cloud
Content Aggregation, Rating & Discussion (Reddit) -> Lemmy
File Transfer (WeTransfer) -> Sync Vault
Forms (Google Forms) -> OhMyForm
Google Analytics -> Plausible
Image Editing -> Gimp
Instagram -> Pixelfed
LinkTree -> SingleLink
Maps (Apple Maps, Google Maps) -> OpenStreetMap
Mobile Operating Systems (Android, iOS) -> e.foundation
Operating Systems (Windows, Apple OS) -> Linux
Smart Assistant (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri) -> Home Assistant
Social Media (in general) -> The Fediverse
Twitch -> OwnCast
Twitter -> Mastodon
Video Player -> VLC Player
Video Sharing (Youtube) -> Peertube