Open Source vs. Closed Source Software – What’s the Difference?

Open Source vs. Closed Source Software – What’s the Difference?

In the age of technology and automation, software is being used more and more in day-to-day tasks. No matter what type of uses the software has, there are two overarching types: closed source and open source. This article will take a look at the two different software, and compare them through the topics of development, support, flexibility, and cost.

First, let’s understand exactly what they are.

Closed source software is software that holds the source code safe and encrypted. Meaning, the user can’t copy, modify, or delete parts of the code without some type of consequence. It can go from voiding the warranty to even legal repercussions.

Open source software is software that does the complete opposite. It allows users to copy, modify, or delete parts of the code under their own discretion. The user is able to use functions of the open source on their own program with no consequence.

Which one works best? Choosing the best type of software depends on your business needs and objectives. The best way to compare is to look at some of the biggest differences between the two types.


Closed source software creators are the ones that generally handle the development and fixes, meaning it is under their discretion if they continue their ongoing development or not.

Open source development is handled through ‘mass collaboration’. As a result, development and fixes usually continue as long as the community is active.

In this, open source has the advantage. Closed source could end support of software at almost anytime, leaving you with whatever you have at that moment. Meanwhile, for open source software, if the community is fairly large and active, you can expect new updates, features, or fixes for a fairly long time.


Closed source software will usually have a dedicated FAQ, manuals, and options to contact someone. If there is a problem with the software, you can submit a ‘support ticket’ and get a response in one business day in most cases. All of these things will be organized and well documented as well.

On the other hand, for open source software, there are not many support options such as a dedicated and organized FAQ or contacting someone may not be available. Some of the only support options would be going through forums, reading articles, or hiring an expert.

Closed source has the advantage in support. Since a lot of the support costs have been factored into the price of the software (excluding special support types like 24/7 or personal expert). This allows for there to be a lot of different self help options such as FAQ, an organized user manual written by the developers, or an organized forum with experts. On the other hand, open source software usually doesn’t have this level of DIY support systems. Although, there might be third-party forums and explanations from the community, which could help.


Closed source software tends to have only as much flexibility as the creators intended. The flexibility only extends to the front-end because the functions are limited to what was programmed. Changing these things could void the warranty or cause even greater problems.

Open source software tends to allow a lot more flexibility. You can modify the functions and even add community created modifications or features to suit your needs.

Depending on your need for flexibility either can be a viable option. Although, due to the increased flexibility open source offers with their option to change their code, it tends to scale up easier.


This could be the biggest difference between the two types. There are a few different pricing models but the two that we’ll focus on are regular purchase and subscription services. Generally, closed source software tends to have some type of cost for the software. Closed source’s pricing model includes the right to use the software, whether it be as an upfront cost or subscription.

Open source, on the other hand, doesn’t have a cost associated with the core functionality. It can, however, have costs for additional features, assistance, or added functionality.

Based on these factors, both closed and open source are on equal grounds. Closed source has a high cost associated with the software, whereas open source has little to no cost associated with the software but has costs associated with additional features.


Overall, if you want scalability, flexibility, and to cut costs as much as possible, open source is a great place to start your software journey. It can be difficult to choose a technology solution that best fits your wants and needs. Many organizations are turning to Liferay, a leading open source platform, to help them build a fully integrated intranet that connects their people and systems. For more information, feel free to reach out to us.

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