Have you ever heard someone mention that WordPress is a great online builder because it is “open source” and then nodded your head knowingly even though you aren’t sure what open source is and what that means for your website? Well, here’s a quick overview so you can finally sleep easy at night.
What does “open source” mean?
Open source is a term used to describe computer programs that have source code that’s available to study, modify, and share. WordPress.org is open source and therefore it can be used for any purpose, studied, changed and shared with others which has resulted in a welcoming and inclusive community of programmers and developers around the world that take the authors original code, and modify or add on to it without disrupting the integrity of the source.
Open-source software is software whose source code is available for anyone to view, modify, and enhance. – WordPress.org
WordPress is an open-source community project and doesn’t belong to a single company or individual. Tens of thousands of talented people have made contributions to make it into the great software that it is today.
What does this mean for me?
As a small and medium business owner, choosing an open source platform such as WordPress for your website CMS system means that you have more options when it comes to the way your site looks, how it operates, how it integrates, where it lives and how much you want to pay ongoing. We’ve explored some of these things below:
There is very little cost in using an open source platform like WordPress. Some platforms have a small distribution fee but anyone can install WordPress software on a host for free and use their built-in themes or source code to turn that software into their brand new website.
Take your website anywhere
Say that you started using Wix as your website builder and you created something amazing that you loved. For some reason or another, you want to move away from Wix and onto another platform – say you moved to a different website development company, you wanted a different feature or function or you just wanted a change. Your website is embedded within the Wix platform, and therefore you can’t move the files anywhere else. With an open source platform, you can download your website files, and move them somewhere else. You own the software and the website you have built and you can pick them up and move them with you wherever you want to go.
Fire your web developer
Open source websites can be taken over, looked after and moved anywhere by virtually anyone, which means that abandoned projects can be adopted by new development teams quickly and easily. If you are unhappy with your website support, you can (get a quote from us and) move your website files anywhere and still have a functioning website that can be built on or expanded when you need.
Similarly, you are not at the whim of any large software company or corporation if they suddenly change terms and conditions. Other out-of-the-box platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Shopify etc own your website and can do things like change the price, change the software or the terms suddenly and there is virtually nothing you can do about it. At least with an open source platform, you can just pick up those files and take them elsewhere. You own them.
This is the big one. Open source platforms like WordPress.org are easy to tap into and integrate with, so most of your favourite software systems are connected to it through API’s to make operating your website easy. Even if you have your own proprietary software, developers are able to integrate it with an open source website easily and effectively. Along with plugin integrations, there are also tens of thousands of registered plugins built from scratch to make your website do practically anything. There are 60,000 registered plugins already created and more being added every day by developers all over the world.
This one goes without saying but with an open source platform you can customise every single thing on it. Because you have access to every line of code and also a whole heap of plugins and themes, you aren’t at the whim of the proprietary developer and the functionality of their system.
It’s only getting better
With tens of thousands of contributors to open source platforms like WordPress.org, the functionality gets better every day. If you can think it, it is likely that a WordPress developer has already built a plugin for it. Or a line of code. Or a snippet. Many of the leading websites around the world have open source platforms like WordPress at the helm and it shows.
So there you have it! A quick summary of what “open source” means and why you might want it for your website. So when it comes up in conversation you can feel confident and comfortable nodding along.