Open Source in Web application development

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Before diving into the different Open Source technologies, it is helpful to look at where Open Source came from, and the motivation behind it. When developing applications, it is important to understand both the rights and obligations that come with using Open Source software, since this can affect the newly developed product itself.

While Open Source in web app development implies that the source code is available and modifiable, the use of the program is free, and copies may be made, it often also means that the same rules have to apply to the program that utilizes Open Source, depending on the type of license that the Open Source software is provided under. It is also worth mentioning that free software, freeware, public domain, and Open Source don’t mean the same thing, although all of these products can be obtained free of charge. Recommend references are given below for readers interested in a more detailed discussion of these topics.

The term “Free Software” is based on the idea of making software accessible to anyone for free, including the right for everyone to make improvements to it. This implies that the source code is provided with the software product. To protect the rights of the authors, a formal approach through licenses has been introduced through Richard Stallman, a former member of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, with the founding of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1984. Stallman’s goal was to develop a UNIX-compatible operating system called GNU (= GNU’s not UNIX) which should give users a portable, no-cost alternative to the various UNIX systems that were specific to each hardware vendor. He planned to achieve this by gradually replacing the proprietary versions of the UNIX system software components with his and other voluntary 11 contributor’s developments.

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