Don’t think I’ve talked about “free as in free speech” software yet, even though I totally should.
Open-source software is absolutely amazing, let me tell you. I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty details or talk about the business side of things. Those aren’t super interesting. What is, though, is the concept, the very essence of open-source software. Freedom!
For those not in the know, open-source software is software whose source code (stuff used to construct the software) is freely available to the public. More often than not the public is allowed to participate in constructing, maintaining and improving this software by making changes in the source code and suggesting the creator(s) to implement those changes into the product. And participants usually aren’t even rewarded!
Let that sink in for a moment. Someone or a group of people writes a piece of software, makes it available for free, and allowing random strangers to make improvements without expecting anything in return? What is this, some weird tech-based utopia? It sort of is! And it works, too! Entire operating systems (see: most all Linux distributions) are open-source, and have a vibrant and buzzing community actively working on them.
It’s great, because it allows users, fans of a product to improve on it, essentially improving their own (and other’s) experience. In some cases they even go as far as making their own piece of software, based on the source code of another open-source project. Not to mention, developing for open-source software is a great way to rack up experience and show potential employers, “look at this, I can actually do things!” (Though I myself still haven’t contributed anything. Most things I want to contribute to are super complicated, and I’m still a young amateur.)
I’d say you also get the benefit of being able to say, “I’m sure this software isn’t dangerous to my computer or privacy”, but we’ve all seen Heartbleed happen.