Popularity of Open-Source Software


Author: InvisibleUser Team

In this article, we will talk about the popularity of open-source software and its use cases. Free software is not for computer freaks only, anymore. It is used widely by companies, governments and individuals. We will mention some statistics on both open-source program as well as the licences they are published under.

In the chapters “Open-Source Software Overview” and “Advantages of Open-Source Software“, we have described what makes open-source software ideal for many situations and different types of users. It brings better cybersecurity, cost efficiency, easier collaboration and most importantly higher software quality, in most cases. In the chapter “Open-Source Software Trust and Transparency“, we talk about the transparency that you get with open-source software. All these advantages would be useless if no one used open-source software, so we created this chapter.

Open-Source Licences

Before we get to the statistics, let us first define when a program can be classified as open-source: There is actually no licence named “open-source. Instead, so-called open-source software is published under licences on the “open-source spectrum”. It is a spectrum, because licences can belong to the categories permissive, weak copyleft, strong copyleft, network protection and so on.

The only licence that has no restriction at all is the public domain. That is not exactly a licence and virtually no software is released into the public domain, where anyone can do anything with it.

The most used licences for open-source software are GPLv2, GPLv3, Apache and MIT. GPL licences are among the most permissive and are also called “copyleft”. On GitHub, 44.7% of repositories use the MIT licence, 13% GPLv2, 11.2% Apache and 8.9% GPLv3 (source).

The main reson for that is that the MIT licence is often a better option for commercial use. You can release your software as proprietary, even if you use MIT licenced code to write it (under some conditions). With GPL, you would have to release it open-source and additionally GPL-compatibly licenced, so it cannot be used commercially as easily. This even means that you cannot use a free licence for your open-source software if it is not GPL-compatible.

GPLv3-compatible are, for example, Apache 2.0, Modified (3-clause) BSD, Mozilla Public License 2.0, Creatiive Commons CC0 (basically public domain) and Public Domain (not a true licence). GPLv3-incompatible are, for example, Apache 1.0/1.1, the original BSD licence and Eclipse Public License 1.0/2.0. A full list as well as a guide can be found on gnu.org, along with much more in-depth information in their “Licences” section.

Use of Open-Source Software By Governmental Organisations

The many advantages that open-source software has over proprietary solutions explain the wide acceptance and adoption.

Especially authorities and educational institutions are switching to open-source alternatives. Local authorities in France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Florida and Germany are now using LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office. The German city of Munich even switched to Ubuntu as their main operating system.

In France, the police (called gendarmerie) also made the transition to Ubuntu with a custom-built Ubuntu distro called GendBuntu. They changed the running Windows XP-based infrastructure entirely to GendBuntu without taking their system offline. 1,200 staff members were needed for this operation, but it succeeded and no downtime occurred.

All French police officers use LibreOffice, which is now the official standard for French authorities and French universities often give a USB flash drive with LibreOffice to new students, so they can get started with their education without having to buy proprietary software. More information on the adoption of open-source software by governments can be found on Wikipedia. For LibreOffice in particular, you can read this article.

The free software adoption will continue. You now understand that when security and stability are required, open-source is the way to go. In 2019, 98% of enterprises used at least one open-source solution in their operation as a company. Some thoughts to consider for companies taking up open-source software can be read in the Entrepreneur Handbook.

Open-Source Software Statistics

Use of Open-Source Code in…

  • …proprietary software (source)
    • 96% of proprietary software contains open-source components like APIs, frameworks or even the whole core of the program
    • The Percentage of open-source code in the whole program increased from 36% to 57% in the last years
  • …IoTsoftware (source)
    • 77% of the total code, composed of open-source frameworks, libraries and APIs

Use of Open-Source Software in companies

  • Use in companies (source)
    • 98% use at least one open-source program
    • 93% of companies increased their use of open-source software from 2014 to 2015
    • 78% of companies run parts of or all operations on open-source software
    • 66% of companies say they consider open-source software, before other options
    • 64% of companies participate in open-source software projects or donate
  • Reasons for use in companies (source 1, source 2)
    • 58% due to scalability
    • 55% of companies use it, due to higher security
    • 49% report improved cyber security
    • 45% due to better interoperability with existing applications and middleware
    • 43% due to ease of deployment
  • Reasons why companies do not use open-source software (source)
    • 43% have not considered it
    • 42% lack of time
    • 27% small company size
    • 27% do not see the value

Book Recommendations

As you see, we have good reasons to recommend a lot of open-source software in our privacy and security guide. Even though we are living in the 21st century, there are more sources of knowledge than the internet. Since you follow this blog, we know that you are not afraid of reading a lot of text. To get practical tips and learn about the history of open-source software, we have a few book recommendations for you:

  • If you want to dig really deep into the world of free and open-source software, we can recommend you the book “Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman”. The book tells, among other things, the history of the GNU Project. The GNU Project is a mass collaboration of free software developers. The essays are more philosophical than technical, but illustrate that free software is even a solution to some social issues and brings society as a whole forward.
  • Another recommended book is “Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software”, which is a collection of interviews with Stallman. Of course, it is a free book and can be read online.
  • Further ones we liked are:
    • How Open Source Ate Software: Understand the Open Source Movement and So Much More” by Gordon Haff.
    • Forge Your Future with Open Source: Build Your Skills. Build Your Network. Build the Future of Technology” by VM (Vicky) Brasseur
    • Open (Source) for Business: A Practical Guide to Open Source Software Licensing” by Heather Meeker

The amazing Open-Source Community


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