Why Your Website Should Be Open Source

Recently, an interesting news popped up in my newsfeed. It was about a government requiring all customised government software to be open source. Having said that, let us go a step further and tell help you understand why your website should be open source and why open source instead of some proprietary code?

This marks the 1/3 posts for the week. Read on after the break.

Why Open Source : An Introduction

Recently I had some discussions with some friends. One of them was using a proprietary software that lacked the latest SEO schema markups that didn’t pass Twitter and Google’s validation. And it was on PHP 5.3.3, an ancient form of PHP with an announced set of vulnerabilities. But he could not do anything about it, as the vendor is using a proprietary code for his site.

That would make his site effectively 6 years old in terms of technology stack. And full of holes when it comes to hackers. Unfortunately that is the case for most companies seeking for their first website. Eager to save costs, most go to something really cheap, which ends up not maintained. And then the website gets hacked, defaced and perhaps lost forever. Even worse would be the amount of data lost.

Without further ado, let us look into why open source software like WordPress is great for your website

Why Open Source : Budget Constraints For Updates

Hacked

The number one reason that you should build a site based on open source code is your budget constraints. Never mind that you have twenty thousand to invest in building a custom site, or perhaps fifty thousand. The question would be, would you be able to hire developers and pay them a monthly fee to keep your site updated? Or to rewrite your site every three years or so?

This is because as time passes by, things like PHP, Ruby and Python gets updated. And without updating your host to the latest version (I’m talking about PHP here), you risk vulnerabilities. But if you do update your hosting to the latest version (right now it’s PHP 7), you risk breaking your site.

But you can choose not to update your site, no? Unfortunately, that is a fallacy that sees many sites being hacked and taken down due to backdoors left by hackers.

Being on a popular open source project like WordPress means that you get the latest updates, very often with a click of a button. And these updates don’t break your site, while keeping it relevant to search engines and secure from hackers.

Why Open Source : Easy To Customise

In an open source project, you can easily find documentation of the things you want to improve on. Contrast this to proprietary software and you find that you some times need to go through a few thousand lines of code before understanding how a certain function works.

If you’re hiring an agency or an individual developer to customise your proprietary software or perhaps to update it while fixing bugs, be aware that you’ll be paying a fortune. That’s why most developers end up asking you to rebuild the site from scratch.

The easy customisation of open source software, helps you to modify your site as you deem fit, knowing that you can always request a pull of the features into the open source project. Or perhaps build a plugin/extension the works with the open source project.

Why Open Source : Easy To Pay For An Extension

WooCommerce Box

While this might not apply to all open source projects, for popular open source projects like Magento, WordPress and OpenCart, it is indeed true. You see, if you hire someone to build a custom ecommerce store and then want some powerful SEO features, or some transactional email capability, you are in for a lot of work. Or a huge cost.

With open source projects, you can easily buy an extension and be assured that it is maintained. This makes your upfront costs lower as you work on traction on your site. It also enable your startup team to build features they need as an extension on top of the open source project, rather than building the entire website from scratch.

Why Open Source : Quality Software For Free

This brings us to our next point. While you can perhaps code something similar to say, Magento, WooCommerce or WordPress on your own, it will probably take thousands of hours, if not more. If you factor in updates and improvements, it will probably cost you to the tune of millions of dollars to build a similar product to some popular open sourced ones.

That’s why even Mashable, the popular tech blog, still runs on WordPress, though it had a Javascript front end. Open source software is really expensive if it is commercial.

Conclusion

If you’re starting a site and not a developer yourself, please start with an open source software, which enables you to maintain and extend your site easily.

Posted by Leo Koo

I help people with SEO, WordPress, Marketing, SaaS and Growth at WPStarters.com.

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