Technology, Digital Sovereignty 1. July 2024

What Is Open Source Software and What Are Its Advantages

In today’s digitized world, open source software (OSS) has established itself as one of the driving forces for innovation and collaboration. This blog article looks at what open source software is, where it comes from, what its benefits are, the most well-known examples and how the technology landscape has changed.

Open Source Code

What Is Open Source Software?

Open source software refers to programs whose source code is publicly accessible. This means that anyone can view, modify, copy, examine, improve and distribute the code. This leads to open and collaborative communities that work together and develop software together. In contrast to proprietary software, where the source code is kept secret, OSS promotes transparency and community work.

What Is the Open Source Initiative

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is an organization dedicated to the promotion of open source software. It was founded in February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond. It certifies software licenses according to its own open source definition. Software that is distributed under these licenses may bear the OSI Certification Mark.

Open Source and Free Software Movement

Open source is any software whose source code can be viewed, while free software aims to give users full freedom over the program or code.

The Free Software movement was launched by Richard Stallman in 1984, and the Free Software Foundation was later founded. Free software in Stallman’s sense guarantees that the source code of productive software can be viewed and modified – and that the result remains free (not free!) in this sense. Open Source is a development methodology, Free Software is a social movement. The free software and open source movements are something like two political camps with different views and goals.

Free software is not to be confused with freeware, which can be downloaded and used free of charge but the copyright remains with the developer.

Open Source and Cloud Go Hand in Hand

The cloud services of the major providers rely heavily on open source technologies. Whether in the area of virtualization, container solutions or end user services – open source software has become an integral part of the cloud.

The History of Open Source

The Origins and Development of Open Source Software

Open source software has its roots well before the era of commercial software products. As early as 1953, the A-2 compiler system was created, an early example of software that was freely accessible and modifiable. In the decades leading up to the 1970s, the dominant view was that the hardware itself was the actual product, not the programs that ran on it. Even when commercial software came onto the market – often in the form of printed lines of code sent by post – the open source concept remained central to the use of computers in commercial, academic and private sectors.

From Unix to Linux

An outstanding example of this era is the UNIX operating system, which was developed by AT&T in the early 1970s. Although commercial and proprietary versions of UNIX appeared later, the open source philosophy was to be continued by the GNU project, which was launched in 1983. In 1991, Linus Torvalds launched a new, free kernel called LINUX. Linux quickly established itself as a quasi-universal standard and today, as the largest open source project, plays a central role in everything from the smallest IoT devices to the most powerful supercomputers.

The Role of Open Standards

Today, The Open Group maintains important standards such as the Single UNIX Specification (SUS) and the Open Agile Architecture Standard. The influential association has almost 1,000 members, representing a wide range of hardware manufacturers and software developers.

By defining and maintaining these open standards, the organization has contributed significantly to the development and spread of UNIX. These open standards have made it possible for UNIX systems to be interoperable and have established themselves as a reliable and secure basis for numerous applications. They have also paved the way for the development of Linux by providing a standardized foundation on which open source developers could build.

Continued efforts and global collaboration in maintaining open standards have led to open source software being recognized not only as an alternative development philosophy, but also as a driving force for innovation, security and collaboration in the digital world.

The Advantages of Open Source Software

1. Cost Savings

Open source projects are generally available free of license fees. This enables companies, start-ups and individuals to use high-quality software at low cost.

2. Flexibility and Adaptability

As the source code is openly accessible, software can be adapted to specific requirements. This offers enormous flexibility, allowing adaptations and improvements to be introduced and solutions to be realized that would be unthinkable with proprietary software. Last but not least, OSS prevents dependencies on one manufacturer, as the community could fork its own version at any time.

3. Security and Transparency

By disclosing the source code, it can be checked by the community for security vulnerabilities or programming quality, for example. This leads to more robust and secure software compared to proprietary software, where security problems are often discovered late and are often covered up.

4. Community and Cooperation

Open source projects benefit from the collective intelligence of a global community. Developers from all over the world contribute to improvement and further development, which leads to a faster rate of innovation.

Well-Known Examples of Open Source Software

1. Linux

Linux is probably the best-known open source operating system. It forms the basis for many servers, supercomputers and even Android devices. Its stability and security make it the preferred choice for many IT professionals. Debian and Ubuntu are two different Linux distributions.

2. Apache HTTP Server

The Apache HTTP Server is probably the best-known web server in the world. It supports millions of websites and offers a reliable and flexible platform for hosting web applications.

3. Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is a popular web browser known for its speed, security and focus on privacy. It is in strong competition with proprietary browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari. Firefox originally emerged from the source code of Netscape.

4. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a powerful office suite that serves as an alternative to Microsoft Office. It includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more.

Github, LibreOffice, code frei zugänglich

Excerpt of code from LibreOffice, which is freely available on Github

The Role of Open Source Software for Digital Sovereignty

Open source software is central to promoting development and strengthening digital sovereignty. Developers have the ability to modify and extend the source code, which encourages innovation and the active participation of many in improving the software. Open source software also enables complete control over technology and data, as it is not dependent on specific companies. This allows individuals, organizations and even entire nations to design and control their digital infrastructure according to individual needs, which strengthens digital sovereignty.

In the business environment, open source software plays a key role in supporting digital sovereignty. The benefits of increased control, flexibility and independence strengthen digital sovereignty in day-to-day business. This means that your own digital environment can be more freely and better tailored to your specific requirements.

Which Open Source Software Does Open Circle Use?

Open Circle develops various IT solutions for SMEs on the basis of current open source tools. Below you will find an excerpt from the open source tools that Open Circle uses.


Open source software has revolutionized the way we develop and use technology. It not only promotes innovation and collaboration, but also ensures that software remains transparent, secure and accessible.

In a world that is increasingly reliant on digital solutions, open source software will continue to play a central role. From the development of new technologies to the promotion of digital sovereignty, the importance of open source will continue to grow.

Open source software is more than just an alternative to proprietary solutions; it is a movement based on collaboration, transparency and collaborative progress. By using and supporting OSS, we can create a digital future that is accessible and secure for all.


Further information:

Open Circle is represented in the Open Source Study Switzerland of the Bern University of Applied Sciences with a company portrait.

The study is available online at The print version can be ordered from the publisher via the Bern University of Applied Sciences website and costs around CHF 20. This exactly covers the cost of printing and mailing the study.

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