Open source versus proprietary website software

Open Source debate
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When selecting a website design/development company an important factor in your decision should be they type of software they use to build you website. There is a multitude of software platforms that websites can be built on but the most important distinction to be made is between proprietary software and open source software.

Proprietary software is that which is owned by a specific company and is sold or licensed to users. Open source software is free to use as it is developed by many contributors around the world.

Here at Netactive we are exclusively use open source software and are strong proponents of its benefits. For most websites, we prefer the Open Source framework Drupal, a powerful and fully extensible content management system with a huge range of features which allows owners to update and control their own site without requiring web development knowledge. For eCommerce sites our weapon of choice is Magento, a flexible and efficient system for selling products and services online which also allows users to have control over the content and functionality of their site. Although these are preferred choice of content management systems, we do use more limited but less involved systems such as Wordpress when budget is tight.

So lets have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of open source versus proprietary software to help you decide what is best for you –

Advantages of open source software

  • Cost – probably the main driver to this system, open source software does not have purchase costs or licensing fees. The concept behind open source means that there are many developers around the world who contribute to the software using a system of peer collaboration and bartering. This allows it to be made available to the public free of charge.
  • It is constantly being improved by thousands of developers – the international development community for the larger open source software brands has become vast indeed. This system of multi-contributors means that pretty much any requirement or problem you can come up with has already been thought of by someone somewhere and a solution is available.
  • You are not tied down to one company – anyone can work on or host a website that uses open source software. This means that if you decide to change web companies or hosting providers you can do this without having to completely rebuild the site, whereas with proprietary systems you are stuck with the owner of that system.
  • Most open source software is fully extensible - this means you don’t have to mould your site to the software, it can be changed to suit your specific needs. As the source code is accessible, web developers can modify or re-write it (often with support from the wider development community), to suit your specific requirements.

Advantages of proprietary software

  • Direct vendor technical support – this means that when software support is needed, in the case of problems or upgrades, the actual person or team who created the software can work on it. As opposed to open source where the developer community model means that there is often no-one in particular who is directly responsible for issues.
  • Support is obligatory rather than optional – when something goes wrong, as it does from time to time whatever the system may be, the owner of the software is directly responsible for sorting it out.


However both of these advantages of proprietary systems are now largely mitigated by the sheer extent of today’s open source software community. Your web developer has access to ample support from the many contributors involved via forums, blogs and direct contact. Problems and bugs are almost always resolved just as effectively this way as they are with proprietary systems.  

Well, it appears our list of advantages is heavily in favour of open source software, making our recommendations very clear. Content management systems such as Drupal and Magento provide a powerful, flexible and cost effective solution for your website, whatever its requirements.

Here are some examples of sites we’ve built using Drupal

Here are some examples of sites we’ve built using Magento