Open source software sits in contrast to proprietary — or “closed source” — software. With proprietary software, only the legal owners of the source code have the right to access, copy, or alter the code, and the software must be used only for its intended purpose. Open source software, on the other hand, allows the user to access, modify, share, and use the code base in almost any way, including redistribution based on the open source license.

By Tim Spring

Building software through open source methods is increasingly popular, and it’s not hard to see why. First, the codebase is free and free beats expense; second, free means more people will use it and more use leads to continuous development from those using it, often through working groups; this has two important aspects: increased innovation and increased resilience. Third, open source provides flexibility as you can adjust existing code to your specific use case rather than have to start coding from scratch.

According to the 2022 Open Source Report, the main values organizations see in open source technology is that it gives them access to innovations and the latest technologies, an overall production cost reduction, and frees them from vendor lock-in. 

But if the code is free, why do you need companies like Indicio?

An analogy might help. If you think of an open source codebase as a pile of wood, pipes, wires, and glass that you want to use to build a house, you could build that house on your own — if you have all the necessary skills, from architectural design to plumbing. Or, you could hire a contractor who has all these skills and a track record of building great houses. 

This is what open source companies like Indicio do: they serve as your partner or guide, adapting the codebase to your specific needs, providing technical support, and managing interoperability with your current systems. 

Indicio also offers kit or pre-built solutions like Proven, where the codebase is rendered to provide a more plug and play experience, and is pre configured and ready to use for specific use cases right out of the box.

How to choose an open source provider

When it comes to choosing your partner in open source development there are a few factors to keep in mind, just as in choosing any kind of contractor. Do they contribute to the open source code base or just implement it? How open source is their solution? How big is their open source community and how involved are they? 

Contributing to an open source community is a bigger deal than some might think at first glance. It means the company will have a deep, working familiarity with the code; indeed, their engineers could well have helped to create it. They will be aware of updates and additional functionality on the code’s development roadmap, and if the company has customers that consistently request features you are interested in, they can draw the working groups attention to those needs, and work towards making those features part of the codebase.

One other thing to keep in mind is how open source the open source solution you’re thinking of using really is. One of the biggest benefits of open source is you avoid vendor lock in and if most of the code is built on open source, this holds true. But, if only pieces are built on open source, then it may be difficult to adapt the code down the line, if it turns out that you need to. It’s always a good idea to assess whether the full solution is open source.

Lastly, it matters how big an open source community is. It is quite literally the difference between having hundreds of mechanics that can work on your Honda, or the one Tesla certified mechanic within your state (if you even have one!) Some companies will have claimed to have open sourced their software, but if they’re the only ones that contribute to or work on the codebase it still doesn’t help you avoid that vendor lock-in — plus, updates will be subject to their team’s timeline.

When it comes to open source decentralization technology Indicio works with the Hyperledger Foundation, a branch of the Linux Foundation, and one of the biggest and most-contributed-to open source projects. We strongly encourage you to check them out to learn more.

If you are interested in learning more about open source solutions you can see some of what Indicio has to offer here.

If you have an idea you would like to explore, our team has years of experience working with open source decentralized identity technology and can give you an accurate estimate of how it will look as well as cost and timeline. Contact us here to arrange a sit down with our technical team.