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Free open-source software: 7 reasons why it's important

27 Feb 2023 5 min read

Written by

Alexandra Nicolae

, Account Manager

As we are easing into the third month of 2023 already, we can easily conclude that 2022 has been anything but boring in the tech and digital landscape.

The international context

The internal (and in some cases external) business struggles translate into downsides for the community of users that supports proprietary software through loyal usage. Such issues are also reflected in the personal lives of employees dedicating resources to the development and advancement of certain companies. Whether we are talking about internal decisions to terminate contracts or mergers and acquisitions, big companies face indubitable challenges. Maybe the best and most recent example is that of Twitter's acquisition - a story framed by intense media coverage, layoffs, and mass resignations. Proprietary software brings forward a number of risks that, of course, might sound like singular examples. But they occur at every level, whether we're talking about SMEs or tech industry giants and key players. The most common practice is that of private stakeholders being the sole decision-makers and this irrevocably affects both users and employees alike.

Another example that arose interest in the tech industry is Microsoft's EU Data Boundary for their cloud services as a response to a rise in demand for digital sovereignty,  amplified by legal uncertainties over EU-U.S. data flows. The promise of transparency documents being released following privacy concerns is an issue that stems directly from the vendor lock-in practices we see in the industry, practically forcing B2B companies to agree to a policy that does not give them full control over their data.

Within this issue-riddled international landscape, perhaps now, more than ever, it's necessary to understand and embrace the importance of free open-source software.

The what?

What is Open-Source? If you're not already familiar with the concept, it takes little to no time for anyone to understand what it is and how it works. Open-Source can be defined from a clear point of view: the source code is freely available for potential modification and redistribution.

Perhaps you're wondering why we've started off with a definition, and the truth is that we go by the book. Much like in the case of a dictionary, the value of the whole open-source concept comes from the community that interacts with the ideas, understands and uses them, as well as builds on top of them. The heart and soul of Open-Source are the people that come together as a community and contribute, either by writing code per se, raising awareness, purchasing services from FOSS companies, or simply by supporting the initiative. The community and FOSS companies are bound by a shared drive to better the available solutions, all whilst keeping to a digital ethics code. As we have stated in our manifesto, we strongly believe in and put into practice FOSS values: transparency, openness, collaboration, meritocracy, leadership, and gratitude.

Free software really democratizes things and allows more people to contribute to solving the world's problems.― Nuritzi Sanchez

Ever since the late 1990s, open-source has been changing the world one step at a time. So many of us, perhaps unaware, have been using open-source solutions for many years. Here are some of the most interesting resources we've been faithfully using and that the FOSS community loves: 

  • Linux - the most well-known and widely used Open-Source operating system.
  • LibreOffice - the office productivity suite used by millions of people around the world.
  • VLC - the beloved multimedia player solution that we have been using ever since the early 2000s, provides streaming services.
  • Audacity- the audio editing software that has been encouraging budding artists or professional sound engineers to advance in their careers for years.
  • Two solutions we use internally are Element, the decentralized messaging platform & Passbolt, a collaboration-oriented password manager.
  • Cryptpad is our soul project. The end-to-end encrypted collaboration suite makes our lives infinitely easier. It is an end-to-end encrypted open-source drive that allows you to safely create, store and edit documents, presentations, kanban lists, and so on. We kindly encourage you to test it out as a secure alternative to other Drive solutions. We are immensely grateful to those who actively donate and help develop and improve Cryptpad.

The why?

Open-source is a force to be reckoned with. Studies have shown an increasing trend with the adoption of open-source in companies, with statistics showing that an astounding 77% have used OS just before the start of 2022. We're more than excited to have a look at the numbers after wrapping up 2022, and with the statistics argument up our sleeve, as well as relentless passion and dedication to improvement, we can safely predict that this year will begin just as this year is ending, under the sign of progress for the FOSS community. Let's dig in and see how free open-source software has a positive impact in the world.

Better Management

Open-source software is a dream to manage from many perspectives. The FOSS community not only participates in creating and expanding the software, but they also largely contribute to spreading the word and knowledge. Numerous users are more than happy to openly talk about FOSS and share their honest opinions and experiences with already available products, either as reviews or even contributing directly to the improvement of the software. The power of open-source communities means fast, reliable, low-cost solutions. 

Full customization and scalable solutions are real to us. Since the software is open-source, there is no limit to the customization capabilities. Beyond the basic extension capabilities of the software (adding plugins, creating a skin), there are no setbacks that stop users from creating above and beyond.

While proprietary software can be constructed architecturally and designed to support some customization, there will always be some cases where customization won't work without the source code. FOSS will never have this limitation.

Better financial decisions

Perhaps the most popular argument that backs up FOSS is the reduced costs. Starting with the very own development of software, since numerous members of the open-source community relentlessly contribute to the code in public repositories, improvements are made from multiple sources. It is also a fact that open-source solutions come with reduced costs in comparison with proprietary software.

Moreover, sales costs are reduced on account of potential clients conducting their own research and simultaneously going through the pre-sales process on their own. Potential users test and validate the software by easily understanding how this applies to their own needs. Of course, once they contact the companies providing services, the sales teams are more than happy to help and this entire process means equitable costs in time and resources for both clients and companies.

Privacy 

Security is a top concern for both end users and companies alike. This is why it's always better to have more contributors to public repositories who can build, utilize and inspect code in order to discover potential vulnerabilities ahead of time and provide fixes faster. Of course, all open-source companies take security risks very seriously and dedicate a vast array of resources to controlled upgrade paths that ensure the privacy and security of the data.

Following a survey conducted this year, it was revealed that 89% of IT leaders believe enterprise open-source is as secure or more secure than proprietary software. The trend toward more inclusive adoption of FOSS worldwide comes as a reassurance that these products and services are becoming even more secure day by day, and we're more than happy to be a part of that.

Fairness. Transparency. Data protection.

To be fair and transparent is part of our DNA. Core FOSS values become, in turn, core values of all open-source companies and this means more than just public access to the source code, APIs, products, and documentation. We've made a commitment to be transparent and fair to and for our customers, and this motivates us to communicate clearly, in a way that can be understood by all and collaborate towards building an even stronger future.

Data protection is also extremely important to us. Since we are committed to being fair and transparent, this means we are required to pass numerous security assessments and provide solid proof that we are making constant efforts to ensure data protection and compliance with all regulations available worldwide.

R&D

Research & development costs are significantly reduced in FOSS when compared to proprietary software. The power of the FOSS community is shown through the participation of contributors to the software development process: providing bug reports & fixes, patches, modules, and documentation. 

The open-source community can also act as an informal school for engineers just starting their career journey or looking to improve skills and knowledge. Since all documentation is available to the public, FOSS communities become a ''learning playground'' for numerous future tech experts who can learn and practice, all whilst shaping the present and future of software.

Last but not least, high-end financed proprietary software enterprises may outnumber open-source companies, but would rarely out-motivate them. FOSS developers are part of a strong community and are very committed to the software they are building.

No-data lock-in

Vendor lock-in is an ongoing issue for multiple entities. Whether it is a case of legally-mandated requirements that some states impose regarding hosting or preference, we believe that the customer has the final word regarding their choice of hosting. In accordance with FOSS values, we take this matter into our own hands by giving everyone the freedom to choose between hosting options and the same pricing for on-premise or cloud solutions, as is our example.

Vendor lock-in means that clients cannot move their data to a different hosting or support provider and should the business relationship not work out, they would have to give up the proprietary software of their choice. Open-source means that we have a no-data lock-in policy, along with identical pricing options regardless of the choice of hosting, be it on-premise or in our Cloud. This way, customers can choose what products and services best fit their needs, all whilst contributing to the development of the open-source community.

Ethics

FOSS values are more than just values we stand by, they are our modus operandi. We believe in open standards, protocols, and formats and that open-source is the most efficient way of developing, operating, and integrating software solutions. Transparency is key and in the spirit of recognizing and leveraging community value, we are open to collaborating with any third party (individuals, institutions, or enterprises alike) to boost productivity, and creativity, to drive ethical results. Respect and recognition are gained through dedication, work, merit, and skills, and we always strive to allow everybody access to open resources on an equal basis. Our passion drives excellence and we are immensely grateful to the community for active interest and involvement, as well as any contribution we receive.

The who?

This is a question we'd love to answer by showing our respect to fellow open-source companies and, of course, the FOSS community. But first, if you don't already know us, here's our story.

XWiki SAS has been created in 2004 by Ludovic Dubost, and it has 44 employees in France and Romania. It's an independent company - all its shareholders are employees or ex-employees. Moreover, its open-source software has numerous organizations using it, all over the world, such as Amazon, Lenovo, SFR, CNFPT, SCOR, and many others. These are the companies that know us, trust us, and have proudly been using XWiki for years.

Flexibility and extensibility are something we take great pride in! XWiki allows full customization of the user interface, ranging from themes and logo integration to full configuration of panels and menus, as well as hundreds of APIs available in XWiki's scripting language. XWiki is a fully scalable open-source tool, meaning that there are numerous extensions available in this directory that enable you to install and use extensions.

While some extensions are specifically developed by our experts in the recommended section, you will also find community contributions that are yet to be tested on our end, but which are maintained and improved by the community in their own free time.

We're always listening to your needs and this is how our Pro Apps department came to life: a dedicated team is continuously working on providing business solutions by creating and maintaining a bundle of the most requested and used applications that are available regardless of your hosting choice and receive professional support through our dedicated customer portal.

We have a no-data lock-in policy, along with identical pricing options regardless of the choice of hosting, be it on the client's premise or in our Cloud. We believe in the freedom of choice, meaning that we will never prevent anyone from choosing to migrate to XWiki (which is why we've specifically developed a dedicated migration tool to help facilitate knowledge transfer) or moving away from XWiki without losing any sort of data and content.

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Perhaps what we are most proud of is our team, the brilliant minds behind XWiki:

  • Our architects, some of who've been a part of XWiki for 15+ years;
  • The Client team whom you will meet upon first making contact with our product and services;
  • The Support team gladly fixes bugs and is always there ready to solve issues;
  • The Infrastructure team makes sure that everything is up and running;
  • Developers and the Product team deploy releases and patches like rapid fire;
  • The Cloud team manages to ensure clear skies even during storms;
  • The Pro Apps team makes sure that our business apps are constantly improved;
  • The HR team brings us all together and last but not least;
  • The Marketing team makes sure to always communicate our presence, be it on social platforms or at conferences and events.

Open-source helps us push boundaries in a safe manner, with the assistance of other passionate and skilled individuals, because we believe in competition and it's also helping us provide the highest standard of services to our customers as a form of respect that any software user is entitled to. 

In the end, what really matters is that open-source offers an alternative that's privacy-focused and allows the end users full control of their data.

Free open-source software is more than a goal to be ticked off on tool feature checklists - it's the passion to offer people ethical collaborative software, developed as a reliable and scalable enterprise product, free for the community to customize as they wish to have their needs met. It's about the right to have full control over data, the safety, and the promise of tomorrow, regardless of internal business board affairs. It's about the freedom of choice under the sign of constant progress, and we are eternally grateful to be part of it. 

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