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What is Open Source Software?
ODB is open source software released under the GNU General Public License. To view the license, click here.
Our model, which has been adopted by hundreds of other software projects, is to allow any user of the software to be able to view and modify the source code freely if they so choose.
Since the ODB project, like other open source projects, requires some revenue to make improvements to the software, we generate revenue by charging for software support and for printed copies of the documentation. This model is also used by companies such as Red Hat and MySQL AB.
For more background on the history of Open Source Software (OSS) and in particular a discussion of its use by nonprofits, we recommend the document below produced by NOSI, the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative in cooperation with Organizers' Collaborative. You may download the entire booklet here (1.42Mb).]
Here is an extended excerpt:
Open source software refers to software distributed with the condition that the source code is published and that unlimited copies are available to the public. Commercial software, also called proprietary software, is software that is distributed under commercial license agreements, usually for a fee.
The open source model is proving to be a revolutionary development because it makes it easier for software designers to build on the work of others. As a result, the quality of open source software (OSS) has steadily improved so that in many cases open source software products rival or exceed the performance of their proprietary or commercial counterparts. Although the true cost of software is more than its initial purchase price, the fact that OSS is freely available, and freely upgradeable, along with other characteristics (security, stability, access to source code for customization, and the absence of marketing gimmicks in the software) have led to its recent popularity.
The for-profit and academic sectors have long recognized that OSS can be more secure, stable and cost-effective. This explains why they have adopted OSS in larger and larger numbers, particularly for network and web servers. Today OSS is also gaining acceptance for use on individual desktop computers.
This development is significant for charitable organizations. While in the 1980s and 1990s most small-to-medium sized nonprofits managed to get by with donated, "borrowed," and 5-year-old copies of software products, new approaches to licensing and copy protection are bringing an end to the era of "free" proprietary software. Microsoft, for example, is requiring that every product installed on every machine require a unique install key. Some companies do away with even this approach, replacing software as a product with a new model of software as a service. Under this model, software customers will have to pay annual fees, thus removing the cost-saving option of using older versions of software.
Given these trends, it is easy to see why nonprofits are finding the community model of software development to be appealing. Social justice nonprofits have always struggled to build diverse coalitions based on shared resources and a commitment to strengthen the entire movement, rather than enriching an individual or single organization. Community development groups strongly advocate on behalf of community ownership of resources and property. The concept of community has always been of real importance to nonprofits seeking to build genuine relationships with the individuals and groups with which they work. The proliferation of small, special-interest nonprofits attests to the belief that one size does not fit all – every community and issue is different and requires new and original solutions.
For more information on OSS, see the following links: