Open source is a shared term for software release under a license that offer creators and users of software almost equal rights. As a user of software released under an open source license you have access to the program code and may develop it further without dependence on a third-party or vendor. The term "open source" has also come to refer to how a group of developers work together (often on the Internet) to develop software collaboratively. Members of these projects often share the view that everyone should have equal access to the software being written.
Open source and free software
Open source is sometimes used as a synonym to "free software", a concept that includes political ambitions to democratize the access to software and making it free in terms of liberty (not necessarily free as in gratis). Despite many similarities these two are siblings, not twins. Open source is, unlike free software, not based on ideals but is rather pragmatic.
The word "free" in this context means you have unlimited freedom in doing what you want with the software you use, much unlike non-open licenses. Software has traditionally been safeguarded by complex and confusing license terms which limit what you may do with the software you've purchased and for how long you may use it before you need to buy a new license. Open source means you have full rights to use the software as you please (as long as you do not violate the laws of your country). In addition, you also have the right to read the source code (which is usually not the case) and making changes. The fact that anyone can view the source code means developers have even more reasons to write good code. Open source is a factor for improved code quality.
Open source is also mutual. Software released under an open source license will remain open. You may not take open source code and put restrictions on it and make it available to others under more restrictive terms than those in its original open license. Sharing software means you also guarantee that others may take part in it on the same terms and that others do not make direct financial profit from selling software you have developed. It's sometimes said that open source is "contagious" meaning code that depends on open source code also must be open.
A common project
For us and our customers open source means we can take part and use software which thousands of other developers have contributed to. We may make additions and changes to that code to meet our clients' needs. This way our clients can use money, otherwise spent on license fees, to customize software to meet their needs even better.
We consider open source to be an important part of our business idea and business model and work actively with contributing back with our own software as well as knowledge, time and involvement. We've built many modules for Drupal, contributed to Drupal core and is a driving force in the Swedish Drupal community. We've organized and helped organize four DrupalCamp conferences in Sweden. We generally share the software we build because of all the advantages it brings us that others can improve, extend and dedicate time to code that brings value to us and our clients.
Is open source suitable for all kinds of software?
The basic principles of open source, the family of licenses as well as the culture surrounding those, work well for many kinds of software. However we believe it is important to look at its case in its own context. Research has shown that open source (and we know this sounds like a paradox since you're essentially giving stuff away) gives you as a developer or buyer of open source competitive advantage. You also get a lot in return since you're distributing work to multiple developers and get access to competences and knowledge that would normally be out of reach.