Open source refers to source code, the foundational code on which software is built. Many software companies make their original source code available as open source. According to opensource.org, open source software is free under a license that does not restrict how anyone uses the code, as long as they don’t discriminate against people, groups or fields of endeavor. Giving away the source code makes good software popular and creates opportunities for other developers to add features and resell the code as part of a commercial software product.
Licensors of open source code package their own version of the software and license it for a fee. So, open source software can be offered as both non-commercial (in the original open source version) and commercial (upon adding other elements).
Linux is an example of a company that made its source code available at no charge and also created products with the source code as the foundation of those products. Eventually, both the non-commercial and commercial sides of Linux were sold for more than a billion dollars each.
Companies can pay for a commercial license of the modified software or use the free non-commercial version of the open source code. But the open source code is generally not as user friendly. It usually requires a business worker who is going to be able to load and work with it, as is, to have some technical inclination. Alternatively, they need the help of someone experienced with the software to configure and adapt it to the particular needs of their business.
For some companies, licensing the commercial version might make the most sense, while for those that are going to bring in experts to work with the software anyway, licensing the free open source code saves money and time.
SMBs and mid-market companies that are building a marketing technology stack often find that free open source software operated by data engineers and data scientists under contract is the most cost-effective way to go.