What Is Differences Between Open Source and Closed Source Software

Updated 5 December 2023 | Vlad Yevtushenko

Looking for software for their companies business owners often face a difficult choice between closed source and open source software. The thing is that the choice is not always obvious, as each of the software has its particularities with a mix of advantages and disadvantages.

In this article we will get open source vs closed source explained and speak about their differences, but before it let's clarify what open source and closed source software are.

Open source software (OSS) refers to the software which uses the code freely available on the Internet.  The code can be copied, modified or deleted by other users and organizations. As the software is open to the public, the result is that it constantly updates, improves and expands as more people can work on its improvement.

Closed source software (CSS) is opposite to OSS and means the software which uses the proprietary and closely guarded code. Only the original authors of software can access, copy, and alter that software. In a case with closed source software, you are not purchasing the software, but only pay to use it.


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For better understanding the peculiarities of open source software and closed source software, we have made a comparison of five basic aspects: pricing, security, support, source availability, and usability.

#1 Price Policy

Open source often referred as free of cost software. It can, however, have costs for extras like assistance, additional services or added functionality. Thus, you may still pay for a service with OSS.

Closed source software is usually a paid software. The costs can vary depending on the complexity of the software. While the price can be higher, what you get is a better product, full support, functionality and innovation. However, most companies provide free trials to convince the purchaser that their software is the right fit.

#2 Security

The question of security is very controversial as each software has two sides of the coin. The code of open source software can be viewed, shared and modified by the community, which means anyone can fix, upgrade and test the broken code. The bugs are fixed quickly, and the code is checked thoroughly after each release. However, because of availability, the source code is open for hackers to practice on.

On the contrary, closed source software can be fixed only by a vendor. If something goes wrong with the software, you send a request and wait for the answer from the support team. Solving the problem can take much longer than compared to OSC.

When it comes to choosing the most secure software, the answer is that each of them has its pros and cons. Thus, it is often a challenge for firms that work in a particular industry.

#3 Quality of Support

Comparing open source and closed source software support, it is obvious that CSS is predominant in this case. The costs for it include an option to contact support and get it in one business day in most cases. The response is well organized and documented.

For open source software, such an option is not provided. The only support options are forums, useful articles, and a hired expert. However, it is not surprising that using such kind of service you will not receive a high level of response.

#4 Source Code Availability

Open source software provides an ability to change the source code without any restrictions. Individual users can develop what they want and get benefits from innovation developed by others within the user community. As the source code is easily accessible, it enables the software developers to improve the already existing programs.

Сlosed source software is more restricted than open source software because the source code cannot be changed or viewed. However, such limitation is what may contribute to CSS security and reliability.

#5 Usability

Usability is a painful subject of open source software. User guides are written for developers rather than to layperson users. Also, these manuals are failing to conform to the standards and structure.

For closed source software usability is one of the merits. Documentation is usually well-written and contains detailed instructions.

Best Examples of OSS and CSS Shopping Carts

The market is full of open source and closed source shopping carts. The basic difference lies in the price. Open source shopping cart systems are free, whereas for closed source programs you will have to pay. With payment, you get customer support and confidence. Because open source shopping carts are free, they don't have such an option. However, their community on different forums is very active and always ready to help.

The benefits of open source solutions are primarily flexibility and scalability. You have full control over every aspect of your site's design, thanks to the open source code. When your business expands, and your monthly sales increase, you can embrace it without being charged more for increased sales volume.

Closed source software is easier to work with for beginners or those who don't know how to code. Also, closed source websites are easier and faster to set up out of the box.

The top open source shopping carts are Magento and OpenCart, and  BigCommerce and Shopify are popular closed source platforms.

Closing Remarks

Each of the platform types has its own philosophy, methodology, advantages, and disadvantages. There is no univocal option as it depends on business needs. We hope this article will come in handy for you to make the right choice for your business.

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