Open-source software versus proprietary software: Which is better?

Open-source and propriety software are two types that are often compared but drastically different in how they work and are used. So, what’s the difference between the two, and why does it matter? In this article, we dive into the pros and cons of each software type and why these differences are important. 

What is open-source software? 

Open-source software, sometimes called OSS, is owned by a community with many contributors, which allows users to make changes and redistribute modified copies at their will. The most common examples of open-source software include WordPress, Linux, Drupal and Apache. For example, a WordPress website allows users to make changes and customize their websites almost without limitation.

There are pros and cons to using open-source software. Advantages include the software being free to use, community support forums, open-source code, a higher level of security, not being locked into using one company and having no IP restrictions. In contrast, one of the cons of using open-source software includes the possibility that code may be broken or miswritten, as you will have to fix the issues or employ someone to do so. Additionally, open-source software can include costs further down the line. For instance, if you want to add additional customization and functionality to your website, you may need to pay for extra software or plugins. 

What is proprietary software? 

On the other hand, we have propriety software. Proprietary software is often called closed software or commercial software. It includes legal protection or copyright for the program’s particular code. Only the company or individual with the rights to that code can change the source code. Users only access the software after acquiring a license, typically after a purchase or membership subscription. 

With proprietary software, updates and upgrades are made by the software developer, not the user. This has various pros and cons. Examples of proprietary software include Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Windows and Slack. Some pros of using closed software architecture are that no responsibility falls on you regarding bugs, code and security; the company addresses these issues through technical support. 

Proprietary software is also typically very stable as the code has been commercially developed. However, some cons of proprietary software include limited functionality, customization and cost, as you usually must pay for proprietary software. 

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The main differences between open-source and proprietary 

Now that we know what the basics of these two types of software are, let’s take a closer look at the main differences between the two. 


One of the most significant differences separating the two software types is the amount of customization that is possible. With open-source software, you can edit and change the source code to create whatever you want, almost without limitation. Extras, such as plugins and additional software, provide you with nearly unlimited power to create. 

In contrast, customization is limited with proprietary software, as you can’t edit the source code. Think of proprietary software as a tool, whereas open source is the overall project you’re working on. For example, you need to change how your Slack account works, and you can’t add a new function on Adobe Photoshop, right? That’s because you don’t have access to the source code; only the software developer has access. 


Open-source software allows you to add functions through third-party plugins or by adding code yourself. For example, you may add a booking system, payment gateway or lead generation form. However, closed software delivers a specific function, for example, you might purchase Adobe Lightroom to edit photos, but you can’t add new functions and tools to the program. 


Open-source software is typically free but often involves additional costs if you want to add further customization and functionality. These additions may require the purchase of a third-party plugin or software. While you can use open-source software for free, if you want more customization and function, you may need to spend more later on. Closed software usually involves an upfront cost for software access or signing up for a membership plan. 


As there are so many people looking at open-source software’s source code, it’s less susceptible to security breaches. However, with closed source, the software is more prone to security attacks; however, fixing these issues will be up to the developer to solve.  

Template libraries 

Open-source software usually provides access to template libraries and plug-ins to make customization easier, which is pretty handy if you’re not a natural-born designer. Proprietary software may also include a template library but will be limited to the developer’s provided templates. 

Which is the best? 

There is no straightforward answer to whether open-source or proprietary software is best. Each has advantages and disadvantages; the “best” depends on user needs. For instance, open source software is better for users who need customization and flexibility and for users concerned with security due to the large community that oversees the code. Even within a set of open source projects, it is important to compare projects to ensure that they match your specific requirements.

On the other hand, proprietary software is better for users who need easy-to-use software with an easy-to-use interface. Proprietary software is also typically better for users who need more support when using the software.

Final words 

To summarize, open-source and proprietary software each have advantages and disadvantages, and which you use will depend on your needs. For customization and flexibility, open-source software is often better, while users who want something easy, stable and ‘straight out-the-box’ may prefer proprietary software.