Open Source Vs Proprietary Software and The Difference

There are many options to choose from when it comes to finding the right app, program or system to suit your needs as a company. The software you need falls into one of two categories; open-source and closed source.

What is Open Source?

Open Source is when the source code is available for anyone to use. They can change and share it. Everyone has access to open-source software and it is free to download. This means anyone can use the software, modify it and then share it among the community. 

Examples of Open Source

Almost any type of software can be open source. Some of the most popular applications of the open-source software model include web browsers and operating systems. 

  • WordPress– A Content Management System (CMS) used for blogs and creating your websites.
  • Woocommerce – the eCommerce side of WordPress.
  • GitHub – A hosting service that has many of its features.
  • Mozilla Firefox – A web browser and one of the most popular browsers available.
  • Linux – One of the most commonly used operating systems, Linux is found on desktops, mobile phones and a large number of servers.
  • Android – An operating system that controls the majority of the world’s smartphones, it is also based on Linux.
  • GIMP – An example of a free alternative to proprietary software, GIMP is a popular alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Source

There are a lot of advantages that come with using open source software, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any disadvantages – here are some advantages and disadvantages:


You own the website!

If a company went into liquidation while using closed source software, everything would disappear. If at some point, the CMS platform you were using stopped trading, you run the risk of losing your website.

On a closed-source platform, you don’t have full access to the files. Often the code is designed to work with that particular software. You need permission from the owners if you want to use it or change anything.

No Development Limitations!

When using open-source software, the opportunity to build whatever you like is there, as long as you have complete flexibility with the code. Platforms such as WordPress have thousands of developers building new fantastic plugins and extensions all the time!

It’s Free!

One of the biggest advantages of Open Source Software is how it is available for anyone to access. Aside from hosting costs, it is free, meaning smaller businesses or individuals don’t have to splash out the cash that they don’t necessarily have at the beginning, allowing you to scale up your business and bring in more clients.

The Community!

Open-Source software is free. This means a lot of people use it, which then creates a community. This community is very supportive where people can contribute to improving your code. You can have new ideas constantly flowing and improving your product. People can improve already existing code, finding mistakes and correcting them for you – which is a massive advantage! It also means developers who want to work on or add features to their favourite programs have the opportunity to do so.

The Updates!

Just like proprietary software, open-source projects are constantly being worked on. However, unlike proprietary solutions, open-source systems will receive updates and new features much more frequently. Anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. This allows users to use the latest software and allows businesses to innovate quicker than other companies who have release cycles every few years.

Disadvantages of Open Source


Although proprietary software release cycles are longer, by the time a new version is released, it has been years in the making. This means it is more refined, leading to a better product overall.

Bugs and Issues

Companies and developers who run and manage open source systems may not have the resources to test and check their updates to the same standard as proprietary companies. New updates are rolled out frequently which means they may contain more bugs and have more opportunities for something to go wrong. You will usually then have to wait for the next update for your issue to be resolved. 

Development Experience

Just like everything else, coding is something that takes time to master and if someone is not an experienced programmer any additions to the base code of the software may not be an improvement. In some cases, they will not work as intended or perhaps even cause the software to crash.  

What is the Proprietary Software?

Proprietary Software, aka “Closed Source” is different to open source. Instead of being free for anyone to use, proprietary software is owned by an individual or company. The source code is usually kept secret. This means only people with access to the code, can modify and change it. Proprietary software is also, but not always, paid software. 

Examples of Proprietary Software

  • Microsoft Office – Productivity software including a text editor, powerpoint creator and more.
  • Adobe Photoshop – An image creation and manipulation program used for digital artwork.
  • Windows – The most widely used operating system in the world.
  • Internet Security Programs – Designed to keep your computer safe from online threats.
  • iTunes – A digital media management program to organise songs, videos, apps and more.
  • Shopify – An eCommerce website where you can build your online shop.
  • Wix – A website creator
  • Big Commerce – Like Shopify, it is an online store builder.
  • Volusion – An eCommerce website where you can create an online shop.
  • EKM – Platform for creating an online shop.
  • Squarespace – Where you can create your website.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Proprietary

 Here are some advantages and disadvantages of Proprietary:

Advantages of Proprietary Software

Specific Features

Proprietary software is made by an individual or company for specific use by its users. This means that the main focus of all development to the software will be based on creating, maintaining and improving the features needed for the best use of the program.  Open-source projects are not managed with the same end goal in mind. This can allow open source projects to become cluttered with too many features and making the reason for using the program unclear.


Release cycles for proprietary software are longer than open-source cycles. However, dedicated teams of software developers who work hard to make the program refined in terms of speed, stability and the number of features. 

Better Support

The customer service you receive when you have a problem with the software should be extremely helpful to you. With a team dedicated to helping you with issues, you’ve encountered. Although they do only have a basic knowledge compared to the developers who created the software, they should be able to help you with what you need.

Disadvantages of Proprietary Software

Monthly Subscription Costs

A lot of proprietary software is developed by large businesses. This means you have to pay to use that software. This may be in the form of a one-off license fee or a continuous subscription. 

Slow Updates

Proprietary systems will usually have longer wait times between updates. Which means you’ll miss out on new features being added as your not due to update yet. They may have emergency updates if there is a need to fix a serious issue or security flaw.

Unable to be Modified

Because proprietary software does not give users the license to modify it, users are stuck with the software looking and behaving the way the developer intended. Many open-source programs allow users to download extra themes and plugins to customise it to the user’s preference.  

Which is better?

Open source is the better option to go for when deciding what to use. When scaling the business, although you might not need the features that open source offer now, in the future as your business grows you might need them. It’s always better to plan for the future of the business. 

It’s unlikely WordPress will go anywhere. It is a growing, sustainable platform. Which is way ahead in the playing field. Along with it being a sustainable and continuously changing platform you have lots of developers available to work on the site, rather than a small team, meaning you can get help 24/7 from developers who have excessive knowledge on what they are doing.

How do I move my website to WordPress?

Moving your website from one host to another can seem like a scary thing. Moving to WordPress is easy! Download WordPress and import your content into it. That’s all you have to do – sounds pretty easy right?

Here are a few benefits of moving your website over to WordPress: 

  • The URL’s remain the same!
  • It’s easier to use and manage!
  • You get access to a variety of different plugins!
  • Improve SEO by using WordPress!

Here at Ribble Digital, we use WordPress which is an Open Source Software. We aim to encourage our clients to use the same. We believe it will help them as they would be on a platform that allows them to scale as a company. Get in touch with Ribble Digital to see how we could help you!