Open source refers to a program or software in which the source code (the form of the program when a programmer writes a program in a particular programming language) is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge.
Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.
The rationale for this movement is that a larger group of programmers not concerned with proprietary ownership or financial gain will produce a more useful and bug-free product for everyone to use. The concept relies on peer review to find and eliminate bugs in the program code, a process that commercially developed and packaged programs do not employ.
The basics behind the Open Source Initiative is that when programmers can read, redistribute and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations.
Proprietary software is privately owned and controlled. In the computer industry, proprietary is considered the opposite of open. A proprietary design or technique is one that is owned by a company. It also implies that the company has not divulged specifications that would allow other companies to duplicate the product.