Difference Between Open Source Software and Proprietary Software

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Open Source Software and Proprietary Software

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Technology has a significant impact on every one of our lives. As a result of a large number of devices and other things that we all interact with daily, we are exposed to a wide variety of software. We can do a variety of jobs with the assistance of software. In addition to that, it allows us to use a computer. It functions as a liaison between the computer's hardware and software. To summarise, the software is an essential component that will enable users to work and carry out any designated activity. The difference between open source and proprietary software is significant in the software industry.

Our lives have been significantly altered by introducing new technologies in recent years. We are all exposed to a broad range of software because of the enormous number of devices we deal with daily. This is the case because of the widespread nature of our interactions. With the help of various software, we can do a wide range of activities. Software is an essential component that provides its users with the capacity to function and carry out any activity that has been defined. Within the context of the software business, the distinction between open-source software and proprietary software is a crucial one to understand.

Open Source Software vs. Proprietary Software

The primary distinction between open-source and proprietary software is that open-source software is available for free use and open collaboration. In contrast, private software is copyrighted, there is no open access, and the product's flexibility is severely restricted.

As was said before, the primary distinction between open source and proprietary software is based on whether or not the product may be used without charge or whether or not a fee is required to do so. Furthermore, there are a few other ways in which open source and proprietary software are distinguished.

Open source software is often produced and maintained by not-for-profit groups. In contrast, proprietary software is typically developed and maintained by businesses or other entities that are operated for profit. Consequently, proprietary software will often include stringent intellectual property protections, which prohibit unlawful copying and distribution of the program. It is hard for lawful users to produce fresh iterations of the program since organizations that supply proprietary software do not make the underlying software code, sometimes known as the source code, available to the general public.

On the other hand, open-source software may be freely copied and disseminated without the risk of infringing upon someone else's intellectual property rights. In most cases, the software's source code is also made available for free distribution, in addition to the fact that the product itself may be downloaded without charge. Users can construct their modified versions of the software if they have access to the source code and then are free to freely distribute those versions of the program wherever they see appropriate.

Difference Between Open Source Software and Proprietary Software in Tabular Form

Parameter of Comparison Open Source Software Proprietary Software
Definition    A program considered "open source" is defined as having a source code and a license that permits unrestricted use, modification, and distribution of the software. The term "proprietary software" refers to the category of software that is copyrighted for use and has a licensed source code in its whole.
Collaboration    Software known as open source is built with sincere cooperation in mind. The author of proprietary software and the customers who have paid for it are the only people permitted to collaborate on its development.
Access  The term "open access" refers to the fact that anybody can use the software known as "open source." Only those who created the program and those who have purchased a license can use the proprietary software.
Flexibility       Software available under an open source license may be used, changed, and distributed by anyone who chooses to do so. The versatility of proprietary software is severely limited since constraints are placed on how it may be used.
Example Open Source software includes various operating systems and applications, including FreeBSD (Berklee Software Distribution), Android, LibreOffice, and Ubuntu. Proprietary software includes the likes of Windows, Microsoft, macOS, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Flash Player, to name just a few examples.

 What is Open Source Software?

Open Source software is a form of program that anybody may use and comes with a source code that is not only unencumbered but also freely licensed. Richard Stallman was the man who established the Free Software Foundation and was responsible for the birth of open-source software.

He is credited as the founder of the free software movement. In 1989, he authored and distributed the GNU General Public License to the public. This is a free software license, meaning anybody can use it without cost. The fact that Open Source software is produced via open collaboration is the defining attribute of this kind of software.

Open Source software allows for cooperation amongst users, even though it may be subject to licensing restrictions. That is, users can make modifications not just in its functionality but also in its source code. The availability of Open Source software is not restricted in any way, as the term would imply. Everyone can get their hands on it. Anyone can see its source code at their leisure. The adaptability of open-source software is another reason for its popularity and notoriety.

Users of open source software are free to readily comprehend and alter the program and use and distribute it to others without any limitations. However, some familiarity with computer programming is required to utilize this software. The Open Source software development model is often geared and suited for an open user community. That is to say, this kind of software is designed for many different individuals who have a fundamental understanding of programming and want to work together and disseminate either their inventions or the works of others.

Open source software is a kind of computer software in which the source code is freely accessible on the internet. This allows programmers to alter the software at no additional cost to add new features and capabilities. Open collaboration is used throughout the software development and testing phase. A community of open-source software developers oversees the management of this software. It offers community support and commercial backing, both of which are accessible to maintain the facility. We won't have to pay anything to acquire it. Additionally, a license is included with this program occasionally, although other times, it is not.

This is a seal of approval held by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The phrase "open source software" refers to the software produced and tested via open cooperation. This means that anybody with the necessary academic knowledge may access the source code, alter it, and share their own version of the updated code.

Any program given under an open source license is permitted to be freely shared among users and redistributed by others, provided that the redistribution conditions are in line with the open source definition established by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Program programmers who have access to a program's source code can edit sections of the code by adding or changing features that would not have been functional otherwise.

What is Proprietary Software?

One more kind of software is known as proprietary software. The phrase "proprietary software" refers to the category of software protected by copyright laws and must be licensed before it may be used.

Most of the time, proprietary software costs money. In other words, you have to purchase a licence for it before you can use it, and only then will you be able to use it. The purpose of proprietary software is not to facilitate cooperative effort. It is developed purely to be used by the developer and any other users who have purchased a license.

Contrary to Open Source software's nature, access to proprietary software is restricted. Only those who have its purchased licence can use it and have its access.

Another important factor to take into account is how adaptable the design is. Proprietary software is substantially less adaptable than open-source software in terms of flexibility. There are limitations placed on how it may be used. Copyright protection is applied to proprietary software. In other words, whomever first created the source code is the owner of any intellectual property rights associated with it. Because it is copyrighted, this program has a limited degree of adaptability.

On the other hand, everyone can utilize proprietary software regardless of their level of expertise. This software is not intended for usage by the general public but rather by a select number of individuals who have purchased access to it and are the legal owners of the source code.

Computer programs are considered proprietary if their source codes are not made accessible to the general public. The software may only be modified by the firm that initially developed it. In this scenario, the person or group that owns the software is responsible for its development and testing rather than the general public. This software is maintained by a small number of people or organizations involved in its creation. We must invest financially to get this program, with commercial assistance for ongoing upkeep. The users are provided with a license to use this program that is both legitimate and validated by the corporation.

To put it another way, proprietary software is simply software held only by the person or organization responsible for its development. Any individual, not a community member, is not permitted to use, alter, copy, or distribute modified copies of the proprietary software. As the name of the kind of software implies, proprietary programs are the exclusive property of their developers or publishers.

The owner of the software is the only person who has the right to make changes or additions to the program's source code since he is the exclusive owner of the copyright for the software. He is the only one who has ownership rights to the software. Thus he is the only one who may sell it. However, there are some criteria that users must adhere to prevent any legal conflicts from arising.

In contrast to open-source software, the internal structure of proprietary software is not made public. Instead, the End User License Agreement (EULA), the rules that end-users must legally observe about the program, imposes limits on the users.

Main Differences Between Open Source Software and Proprietary Software in Points

  • The term "Open Source Software" refers to software that is free for anybody to use. On the other hand, copy-protected software is referred to as proprietary software.
  • Proprietary software, on the other hand, is not designed for collaboration but is intended solely for the program's designers and the people who have paid to use it. On the other hand, Open Source software is made for open collaboration.
  • The availability of Open Source software is not restricted in any way. However, access to proprietary software is often limited and sometimes even prohibited.
  • Software available under an open source license may be used, modified, and distributed by anybody. However, proprietary software provides a restricted range of customization options. Only those who have paid for it and acquired it legally have the right to use it further. Its authors control the rights to its source code.
  • Open-source software is not intended for those unfamiliar with the fundamentals of computer programming. At the same time, any individual may use proprietary software regardless of their degree of technical expertise.
  • While FreeBSD, Android, LibreOffice, Ubuntu, and Firefox are examples of open-source software, Windows, Microsoft, Adobe Flash Player, Photoshop, and iTunes are instances of proprietary software.
  • In open-source software, flaws are fixed more quickly, and the level of security is improved thanks to the community's involvement. On the other hand, the seller of proprietary software is solely responsible for correcting any errors.
  • Unlike proprietary software, open-source software is often developed and maintained by not-for-profit organizations. In contrast, proprietary software is typically produced and supported by for-profit corporations.


Different kinds of software, such as Open Source software and Proprietary software, each have unique characteristics and vary in several areas. The primary distinction between the two lies in that the former is accessible for anybody to use while the latter is protected by copyright and has limited access.

In contrast to proprietary software, open-source software facilitates open cooperation. Proprietary software does not. On the other hand, proprietary software's flexibility is severely limited compared to that of open-source software.

Users of the former have the freedom to change and distribute it to anybody, while the latter's developers control the rights to the source code, and the only people who may use the program are those who have paid for a license to do so.


  • https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsc.2137
  • https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/isre.1110.0358

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"Difference Between Open Source Software and Proprietary Software." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 14 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-open-source-software-and-proprietary-996>.

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