Open source vs proprietary software venn diagram

1. Open source Software: Open source software is computer software whose source code is available openly on the internet and programmers can modify it to add new features and capabilities without any cost. Here the software is developed and tested through open collaboration. This software is managed by an open-source community of developers. It provides community support, as well as commercial support, which is available for maintenance. We can get it for free of cost. This software also sometimes comes with a license and sometimes does not. This license provides some rights to users.

  • The software can be used for any purpose
  • Allows to study how the software works
  • Freedom to modify and improve the program
  • No restrictions on redistribution

Some examples of Open source software include Android, Ubuntu, Firefox, Open Office, etc. 

2. Proprietary Software: Proprietary software is computer software where the source codes are publicly not available only the company that has created can modify it. Here the software is developed and tested by the individual or organization by which it is owned not by the public. This software is managed by a closed team of individuals or groups that developed it. We have to pay to get this software and its commercial support is available for maintenance. The company gives a valid and authenticated license to the users to use this software. But this license puts some restrictions on users also like.

  • Number of installations of this software into computers
  • Restrictions on sharing of software illegally
  • Time period up to which software will operate
  • Number of features allowed to use

Some examples of Proprietary software include Windows, macOS, Internet Explorer, Google Earth, Microsoft Office, etc. 

Difference between Open-source Software and Proprietary Software:

S.No.OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWAREPROPRIETARY SOFTWARE01.Open-source software is computer software whose source code is available openly on the internet and programmers can modify it to add new features and capabilities without any cost.Proprietary software is computer software where the source codes are publicly not available only the company which has created can modify it.02.Here the software is developed and tested through open collaboration.Here the software is developed and tested by the individual or organization by which it is owned not by the public.03.In open-source software the source code is public.In proprietary software, the source code is protected.04.Open-source software can be installed on any computer.Proprietary software can be installed into any computer without a valid license.05.Users do not need to have any authenticated license to use this software.Users need to have a valid and authenticated license to use this software.06.Open-source software is managed by an open-source community of developers.Proprietary software is managed by a closed team of individuals or groups that developed it.07.It is more flexible and provides more freedom which encourages innovation.It is not much flexible so there is a very limited innovation scope with the restrictions.08.Users can get open software free of charge.Users must have to pay to get the proprietary software.09.In open-source software faster fixes of bugs and better security are availed due to the community.In proprietary software, the vendor is completely responsible for fixing malfunctions.10.Limited Intellectual Property ProtectionsFull Intellectual Property Protections11.Usually Developed and Maintained by non-profit organizations.Usually Developed and Maintained by for-profit entities.12.Examples are Android, Linux, Firefox, Open Office, GIMP, VLC Media player, etc.Examples are Windows, macOS, Internet Explorer, Google Earth, Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash Player, Skype, etc.

My Personal Notes


August 29, 2019

Which is better — proprietary vs. open source? Find out the differences and learn when to use which. 

Proprietary vs. Open Source: Key Differences

Proprietary refers to software that is owned by the individual or company who published it. Open source refers to software that is available for anyone to access or change the code.


Open source offers more flexibility to users, which can accelerate innovation. Proprietary software is less flexible and often comes with restrictions. 


Open source is developed and maintained by a community. Proprietary software is developed and maintained by the group who published it. 


Many people in the business world prefer to use proprietary software instead of open source software. This is due to the misconception that proprietary software is better supported than open source software.

After several years of supporting both open source software and proprietary software, it becomes clearly evident that just because you pay for proprietary software does not mean that supporting that software is any easier. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why supporting open source software is actually easier.

Examples of Proprietary vs. Open Source Software

Here are some popular examples of proprietary vs. open source software.

Is Open Source Better Than Proprietary?

Open source is better than proprietary software in many ways. One of the biggest ones is flexibility. And open source software can be just as supported as proprietary.

Problems with Support For Proprietary Software

Let’s identify the set of steps you would take to handle a support issue for proprietary software.

1. Work With a System Administrator

First, you would have a system administrator consult the software documentation to learn more about the issue at hand to find a solution to the problem.

2. Figure Out a Next Step

If the administrator cannot resolve the issue with the use of documentation, then do one of the following:

  • If you have business-level or production-level support from the software vendor, open a support ticket with them at this time.
  • If one is available, post your issue on the online community for the product (forums, mailing lists, wikis, etc.).
  • Seek out another existing employee who might know how to solve the issue.
  • Contract a third-party expert to help fix this issue.
  • If the issue is actually a bug with the software itself, issue a bug report to the vendor.

Why Open Source With Support Is Better

Believe it or not, the general steps to handling an issue with open source software line up almost identical to the steps above. At times it’s actually easier to deal with a bug fix for open source than it is for proprietary software. In open source, bugs are typically submitted to an online issue tracking system, which is public to any user. For simple everyday support issues there really isn’t much difference between open source support and proprietary software support.

What about when complex errors occur?

For example, you may not be able to find anyone else from the online community that has experienced the issue. And nothing is popping up when typing the error messages into Google. In this case, the issue could be related to your data and specific use of the software. This would explain why no other users have experienced the same issue.

So what are you to do when there is no answer online and you’re having an issue with the software? And now here lies one of the great benefits of open source: you have access to crack open the black box and see what is inside.

A skilled software developer has access to the actual source code that makes up the open source project — unlike if the issue was occurring within proprietary software. The developer will be able to debug the issue by crawling through the code rather than waiting for assistance from outsourced tech support or vendor support.

Sometimes the issue can be majorly complex, and crawling through the source code is often the only way to truly diagnose the problem. When/if the issue is identified as a bug in the software, a skilled developer or contracted third-party expert can rebuild the software with a self-made fix for this issue — no vendor interaction required.

Get Better Support With OpenLogic

Proprietary software support issues can hit the “black box.” Getting a fix for a problem is quite rare and you’ll usually need to find a workaround for the support issue instead. Typically, the bigger the vendor, the harder it is to obtain a fix.

The beauty of open source support is whether you’re fixing the issue by hiring a third-party open source software expert (such as OpenLogic) or by utilizing an existing employee, you can always take full control of your support needs.

Talk to an open source expert today to learn why you should make the switch from proprietary software.

Talk to an Expert

Additional Resources

  • Blog – Why Companies Choose OpenLogic for OSS Support

This blog was originally published on April 27, 2012. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

There’s no easy way to find out which is the better software development model for your business, open-source or proprietary.

Open-source has its plate full of developers and programmers who are least intimidated by the idea of commercializing software, but it poses threat to the commercial software industry who are most threatened by the notion of open-source software.

The difference between the two is fairly clear because each model has its fair share of pros and cons. However, weighing down the options between open-source and proprietary to find which one’s superior is a difficult task.

As with any decision making complexities, you can only be certain about “it depends”.  Clearly, one has a little edge over the other in terms of features and characteristics which definitely set them apart.

The idea that one totally contradicts the other is not exactly true. This article explains the difference between the two.

What is Open-Source Software?

It all started with Richard Stallman who developed the GNU project in 1983 which fueled the free software movement which eventually led to the revolutionary open-source software movement.

The movement catapulted the notion of open-source collaboration under which developers and programmers voluntarily agreed to share their source code openly without any restrictions.

The community of people working with the software would allow anyone to study and modify the open-source code for any purpose they want. The open-source movement broke all the barriers between the developers/programmers and the software vendors encouraging everyone to open collaboration. Finally, the label “open-source software” was made official at a strategy session in Palo Alto, California in 1998 to encourage the worldwide acceptance of this new term which itself is reminiscent of the academic freedom.

The idea is to release the software under the open licenses category so that anyone could see, modify, and distribute the source code as deemed necessary.

It’s a certification mark owned by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The term open source software refers to the software that is developed and tested through open collaboration meaning anyone with the required academic knowledge can access the source code, modify it, and distribute his own version of the updated code.

Any software under the open source license is intended to be shared openly among users and redistributed by others as long as the distribution terms are compliant with the OSI’s open source definition. Programmers with access to a program’s source code are allowed to manipulate parts of code by adding or modifying features that would not have worked otherwise.

What is Proprietary Software?

Unlike open source, there are some software the source code of which can only be modified by the individual or organization who created it.

The owner or publisher of the software holds intellectual property rights of the source code exclusively. We call this type of software “proprietary software” because only the original owner(s) of the software are legally allowed to inspect and modify the source code.

In simple terms, proprietary software is software that is solely owned by the individual or the organization that developed it. Proprietary software, as the name suggests, are exclusive property of their creators or publishers and anyone outside the community are not allowed to use, modify, copy or distribute modified versions of the software.

The owner of is the exclusive copyright holder of the software and only he has the rights to modify or add features to the program’s source code. He is the sole owner of the program who can sell it under some concrete conditions which should be followed by the users in order to avoid any legal disputes.

Unlike open source software, the internal structure of proprietary software is not exposed and the restrictions are imposed upon the users by the End User License Agreement (EULA), the conditions of which are to be legally followed by the end users regarding the software.

Examples of proprietary software include iTunes, Windows, macOS, Google Earth, Unix, Adobe Flash Player, Microsoft Word, etc.

Difference between Open-Source and Proprietary Software

Control of Open-Source and Proprietary Software

The idea alone that developers and programmers are allowed to examine and modify the source code as deemed necessary shouts aloud control. More control means more flexibility, which means non-programmers can also benefit from the open collaboration. Proprietary software, on the contrary, restricts control only to the owner of the software.

Security of Open-Source and Proprietary Software

Because anyone with the required knowledge can add or modify additional features to the program’s source code to make it work better, it allows better sustainability of the software as indiscrepancies in the software can be rectified and corrected repeatedly. As developers can work without any restrictions, it allows them to rectify errors that might have missed by the original developers or publishers.

Driver Support of Open-Source and Proprietary Software

Open-source software packages often have missing drivers which is natural when you have an open community of users with access to every single line of code. The software may include code modified by one or more individuals, each subject to different terms and conditions. The lack of formal support or sometimes use of generic drivers can put the project at risk. Proprietary software means closed group support which means better performance.

Usability of Open-Source and Proprietary Software

Unlike open-source projects, proprietary ones are typically designed keeping in mind a limited group of end users with limited skills. They target a small knit circle of end users unlike projects accomplished within open source communities. Users outside the programming community won’t even look at the source code let alone modify it.

Opacity of Open-Source and Proprietary Software

The viewing restrictions barred the end users from modifying the code let alone debugging it effectively with no control over possible workarounds. The internal structure of proprietary software is strictly closed-access meaning they lack transparency which makes it virtually impossible for users to even suggest modifications or optimizations to the software. Open source, on the other hand, promotes open collaboration which means lesser bugs and faster bug fixes with fewer complexities.

Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software: Comparison Chart

Summary of Open-Source Verses Proprietary Software

Open-source refers to the software whose source code is available for anybody to access and modify, while proprietary software refers to the software which is solely owned by the individual or publisher who developed it. Unlike open-source software, proprietary software is managed by the individual or the organization that holds exclusively the intellectual property rights of the source code and nobody outside the circle is allowed to view the code let alone inspect it. The main difference between the two is that open source projects have the ability to evolve as they can be iterated upon by millions of developers located across the globe.

Written by Jane