What is open source software?
You have probably worked out that we're big on Drupal here and Drupal is itself open source. To date every website that we have designed and developed has been built on top of Drupal. Drupal can be downloaded right now for free.
A default copy of Drupal will be very basic in terms of functionality and its power is fully realised by adding additional modules and themes to it. The Drupal websites we deliver have 50+ modules installed and configured, that's just the standard portfolio websites.
Is open source software free?
"Open Source Software" is ultimately software that is available in its original "Source Code". Developers with the right skills are then free to make what ever changes they see fit. Open source software is not always financially free but it is free to re-distribute and modify, once obtained.
Modules (addons or plugins) and themes (Skin), are also available to download for free as Open Source Software. The technical bit is setting it up and getting it all to work together.
All that said, we often do think of Open Source Software as financially free in most cases.
Open Source Software vs SAAS (Software as a service)
When you use open source software, in our case Drupal, you pay a larger sum for the initial development. Unless you do it yourself of course. However there are no additional costs to using your website other than the hosting of it. You can add as much content as would like whenever you want.
In the context of websites, SAAS (Software As A Service), is the companies who give you access to their software for an agreed payment every month. The problem comes when wanting to switch companies because your content will be stuck in their software. Also if you want something that is not included in their available addons / widgets you'll be snookered because you can't access and edit the actual code. You can only use it as is.
Open source web developers
Web developers like ourselves offer to set up and perform custom configurations of the Open Source Software, as a service for end users. Developers often then freely contribute their code back to the original "Open Source Project", for others to also freely use. This is of course with the permission of our clients.
The Drupal open source community
Everyday, open source developers download contributed code for the project and decide to take it to the next level. When they do everybody gets to benefit once again, when their code is contributed back to the original project. This is because we all regularly update our Drupal websites and pick up the new fixes and improvements.
Through the use of forums, web developers and/or companies faced with the same technical challenges, often join forces and work together. This collaborative effort often leads to massive leaps forward in technological advancements.
Here's some interesting numbers to put all this into some perspective. Drupal.org on the 21/03/12 had:
- Powers 1,000,000+ websites or 2% of the web.
- 1000+ people directly contributed to Drupal 7 ex modules and themes.
- 9913 available modules. The most installed Module is Views at 445,728 reported installs.
- 962 available themes. The most installed Theme is Zen at 81,111 reported installs.
- 8371 pages of documentation
- 801,546 Forum issues. An issue may be a bug report, feature request, documentation support...