Difference Between Open Source and Closed Source Software

Difference Between Open Source and Closed Source Software-feature image
April 3, 2023 Reviewed By : Asheet Makhija .11 Min read

Every software is developed using a source code, which is more like a blueprint. And the difference between open source and cloud source software is primarily because of this source code.

In this article, we will look at both types of software and take you through a thorough comparison of open source vs closed source software based on factors like security, updates, cost, flexibility, and more.

What is Open Source Software?

What is Open Source Software

Open Source Software or OSS is computer software where you can freely use a program and also the source code is publicly available to copy, modify, delete or even share by other users. This means that the source code is visible to all and for any purpose and according to the needs, one can simply modify it.

In brief, OSS includes a license that lets users easily modify the software to suit their needs. So, a program isn’t open source until it provides you with an open source code and the freedom to modify it, however you desire.

Examples of Open Source Software

Open source software is currently used in various areas such as education and business. Some of the common examples are Linux, VLC Media Player, Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, jQuery, to name a few.

What Is Closed Source Software?

What Is Closed Source Software

Also known as proprietary software, closed source software is the type of computer software wherein users are not given access to the source code. This implies that the individual or organization who has created the particular software can modify the code in any way. Also, closed source software creators are the ones who handle the software update and security.

Examples of Closed Source Software

Skype, Java, Adobe Flash, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Shopify, Magento, Microsoft Windows are some of the popular closed source software examples.

Difference Between Open Source and Closed Software

CategoryOpen Source Software (OSS)Closed Source Software (CSS)
SecurityBenefits from the fact that users have access to the code. Hence, anyone with the required skillset can help you fix the problem.As the development process takes place in a closed environment, it is a comparatively secure platform than OSS.
CostingOften free for use. You may pay if you want to have access to features like technical support.The price varies depending upon the complexity of the features.
UpdatesConstantly updates, improves and expands as the software is open to the public.Takes some time to update as the access is reserved by the app developer.
PrivacyMost privacy friendly software as the source code is publicly available.Often tracks user’s location, contact list or even scan files on the devices.
SupportThe only support is through hiring third party service providers or reading articles online.You can reach out to service provider in case of any query and usually expect a reply within one business day.
Source Code AvailabilityAllows users to modify the source code easily as per their needs.Provides restriction to users based on the modification of software.
UsabilityDocumented especially for developers rather than layman users.Documentation is well defined and usually detailed.
RecognitionProgrammers participate online in development and often compete for recognition.Programmers do not compete with one another for recognition.
ProgrammersA large number of programmers work on a single project if it is popular.Limitation on the number of programmers who work on a specific project.
LicenseCan be easily installed on any system.Needs to have license in order to be installed on a system.
ResponsibilityThere is no specified person responsible for the software.The vendor is responsible for everything happening to software.
ExamplesFirefox, Zimbra, AndroidSkype, Microsoft Windows, Adobe Flash Player

Often referred to as OSS, an open source software is the one where the source code is open as in the user can easily and quickly access and use it. Closed source software, on the other hand, is a type of computer software wherein the general public doesn’t have access to the source code.

  • Security

When it comes to security, each software has its own advantages and limitations. Users can modify open source programs which means anyone can view, share and fix the code if required. However, as the source code access is open to all, it is even open for hackers to use it for malicious intentions.

On the other hand, they can only be fixed by the software provider. So, if something goes wrong, you can raise a request and wait for the support team to address the query. Although solving a query takes more time compared to open source software, it is relatively more secure.

  • Costing

Costing could be one of the biggest differences between open source and closed source software. Often, they doesn’t have a cost associated with its functionality. Yes, you may have to pay for additional features.

Software with closed source, on the other hand, tends to have some type of cost. The pricing model includes the right to use the software and the cost varies depending on the functionality provided by the software.

  • Updates

Updates arrive quickly as users can work on a piece of software without asking for permission from the original app developer.

On the other hand, in closed source software, updates arrive at set intervals as it is dependent upon the software provider. In addition, the new versions of the software are less likely to work on an older hardware.

  • Privacy

As the source code is publicly accessible, it is usually the most privacy friendly software. This is because if someone tries to violate your privacy on an open source platform, any other user can easily notice and raise the concern. As a result, the risk of reputational damage is enough to prevent developers from collecting basic user data.

Closed source software, especially on mobile devices, often keeps track of your location, contact list, or even scan files on your devices. Some can also track other apps you have installed on your phone.

  • Support

Closed source software has an upper edge when we talk about software support. It is because there is a single support you can reach out to for all your support needs. Moreover, the cost for the same is included when you buy the product.

However, the only support options are hiring third party experts, and accessing reliable knowledge bases. As a result, you may find it difficult to fix problems with open sourced software.

  • Source Code Availability

Lets you change the source code freely. This leads to individual users gaining benefit from innovation developed by others as well as develop what they want.

On the contrary, they provide much restriction on users based on modification of software. However, the ability to not alter the source code is what contribute to security of CSS.

  • Usability

Usability is one of the advantages for closed source software. Documentation is quite detailed and well defined. However, user guides are documented for developers rather than the users and hence fail to properly explain how a product operates or how to employ.

Suggested Read: Best Free and Open Source Operating System Examples

Pros & Cons of Open Source Software

Pros of Open Source Software

The source code in open source software is shared with everyone. This leads to numerous advantages like free installation, easy scalability, lower software costs among other things. However, just like with anything else, there are two sides to the same coin.

Using open source in the business has a few drawbacks too like maintenance issues, technical problems etc. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of open source software in detail!

Pros of Open Source Software

Here are a few advantages of open source software.

  • Cost effective: Can be installed free of cost without compromising on the quality and any upfront expenses. (Though some features like technical support may cost extra)
  • Flexible: Developers can examine how the code works and easily make changes to the various aspects of the app to suit their unique needs.
  • Error free: As the source code is free to modify, the probability of error is considered low. This is because you can see what’s in it, modify it and make it totally yours!
  • Licensing: Allows the users to use the program for any purpose. The best part is there is no restriction on the number of times the software can be installed.
  • Scalability: Great option for organizations of all sizes as it can easily be scaled to help businesses achieve their desired results.
  • Attract top talent: Most technology professionals are familiar with the platform where they enjoy creating their own projects. In fact, they believe open source is the future. As a result, they gives enterprises the ability to attract the best talent.

The future for open source software is undoubtedly phenomenal as this platform has the power to solve complex business problems with effective solutions. Moreover, be it web, mobile or cloud solutions – all are increasingly built on open source platforms!

Cons of Open Source Software

Read on to know a few limitations of opting for open source software.

  • User friendly: Graphical interface may not be convenient for the users to understand. Hence, if used in an organization, an employee must have pre-hand training accordingly to operate it.
  • Security: They are free to edit, it might come as an issue when someone tries to misuse the code for their personal benefit. While many people collaborate to improve the software, others may have malicious intentions.
  • Maintenance: While it does not come up with any direct cost, it might be equipped with hidden maintenance cost. For instance, if you face problems in the implementation process, you will require a third party support who would charge you additionally.
  • Support: Like any software, while working with them, it is common to experience technical issue. As open source software developers do not come with technical support, the only option is to rely on third party support services.

Pros & Cons of Closed Source Software

pros of closed software

Closed source software offers various advantages to businesses including increased user friendliness, support, security among other things. However, it also has a few disadvantages including the inability to change the code without permission, licensing counting can be a notable issue etc. Now, let’s discuss a few advantages and disadvantages of closed source software!

Pros of Closed Source Software

Here’re a few advantages of closed source software that you must consider.

  • Provides dedicated service and support

Provide you with full access to the services that you need anytime to use the software. They are quite useful if you have little to no technical skills for customizing an open source software’s code.

  • Good interface

The user interface is often better than any open source software. Software developers focus on the experience of users and customizes its interface as per the user’s needs.

  • Security

Closed software provides more security for the users, as the development process takes place in a closed environment. There is a team of highly talented people who have the authorization to modify source code.

  • Built with end users in mind

Closed source solutions are built for specific user groups that make the program easier to use and maintain. Moreover, with this, you’re receiving a ready software solution right away to improve your processes quickly.

  • Receive information about the product instantly

If you try a closed source system for your software requirements, then you receive all the information you need about the product instantly directly through email. This is one of the main advantages as it improves the speed of the training process.

Cons of Closed Source Software

Here are some of the disadvantages of opting for closed software in the business setting.

  • Cost: Not only do you have to pay for utilizing the benefits of closed source software but also its licensing and support fee. However, mostly offer free trials to let you decide whether this software will be a right choice for your business needs or not.
  • Adaptation: Even though the inability to alter a source code increase security but can also act as a limitation. Businesses have the right to make the changes only if the provider considers the request. So, if the provider does not accept the request, the businesses cannot achieve the desired result.
  • Reliability: As fixing any errors in the code is in the hands of developers in closed source software, the users need to wait for some time to get the errors fixed. There might also be cases where the team might never fix the error.
  • Licensing: There is a limit to the number of users who can use the software. So, for instance if the license allows 5 users, only those 5 users would be permitted to use the software. An additional license must be purchased for each additional user who needs to be connected.

Suggested Read: Best Low Code No Code Platforms to Kick Start Your Startup

Wrapping Up!

Both the platform types – open source and close source software has its own set of features, pros and cons. The right type totally depends on your business needs. We hope this article gave you a valuable insight into making the correct choice for your business.


  1. What’s the difference between open source and closed source operating systems?

    Open source software is the type of software in which users are given access to the source code. This means anyone who wants can edit and change the code if they desire. Closed source software, on the other hand, do not provide access to the source code. Users cannot see or modify the code in any way until they seek permission from the software provider.

  2. What are the benefits of closed source software?

    A closed source software is user friendly, provides security to the users and extends support provided for the software.

  3. Is closed source software vulnerable to security threats?

    No, they provide more security to the user as the development of the software process takes place in a closed environment.

  4. What are the characteristics of closed source software?

    Closed source software are more likely to be a focused product, stable and comparatively easier to access than open source software.

  5. Which is better open or closed source?

    It is difficult to determine whether open source is better or closed source software. The reason being both the software has its own set of pros and cons. However, if you are looking for flexibility, scalability as well as cut costs significantly, open source software is a great place to begin with.

  6. What are 3 examples of open source?

    Mozilla Firefox, Linux and VLC Media Players.

Written by Nishi Agrawal

Nishi Agarwal is a talented content writer and dance fitness instructor. She holds a degree in Mass Communication from Patna Women's College, where she acquired the tricks for writing, editing, and journalism. As a content writer with Techjockey.com, she has gained valuable experience in creating engaging and informative... Read more

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