Working with Open Source Software

Published: October 15th, 2010 by Ryan M.



plugins

Some of our customers are nervous when we tell them that we use open source software for our web projects. They think that open source means fly-by-night or unregulated.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Open source applications —like Linux, MySQL, WordPress, and Firefox — are reliable and stable. Often they have fewer bugs and security holes than proprietary software. That’s because the source code is open to the public, and a huge community of developers are reviewing it and suggesting improvements. A control board reviews the suggestions and implements the best ones in each new version of the software.

We use open source software in a number of ways for our clients. We think it has some distinct advantages.

  • Flexibility. The code on open source software is literally “open” to developers. That means we can easily change it to meet our clients’ needs. For example, we recently created a WordPress plug-in for realfootballtalk.tv that allows the site administrators to track the stats of various pro football players. That’s an example of a very specific application that you couldn’t get off the shelf—but that we created and easily added in to WordPress.
  • Innovation. Because the community of developers for open source software is so large, there’s a ton of innovation. It’s like apps for the iPhone — it seems like every day someone invents something new and cool. We pull from this universe of plug-ins to constantly bring new features and tools to our clients.
  • Cost savings. Open source software usually costs significantly less than proprietary software, or is even free. We pass that cost savings on to our customers. In addition, using open source software as a base reduces our development time significantly. We spend our time on customization, not on reinventing the wheel. Once again, this saves our clients time and money.

One of the sites we created recently using open source software was chapelhillhouse.org, a weekend retreat for families coping with childhood cancer. Part of the reason we could donate our design and development time for this site was that using open source software made the process so easy.

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