The term “open source” is almost self-explanatory. It means that something is publicly accessible and that anyone can use, share and modify it as they please. It does not, however, mean that it is always completely free of charge.
It originated in the context of software development to distinguish a specific approach to create computer programs. Today, it is used to describe a broader set of values, but let us focus on open source code for now.
As mentioned above, open source is something that is accessible to everyone. For example, open source software is software that has a source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance to improve the program by adding features or fixing parts. This happens a lot in games, too. A great example of this is Garry’s mod for Half-life. DotA, which originates from Warcraft, is also a famous example, but that one was made from fans hacking the code to create the mod. Both mods have later been bought and developed into their own games. API, with which you can use to call on code from a backend library, is also a great example of how open source can be used by anyone.
A lot of game developers nowadays use open source, and gladly let their players create mods for their games. It is a good idea because that way they can make sure that the game stays relevant and let ideas flow. Open source is also great for the programming community and its continuous development. When programmers make their code available to others - so others can view it, copy it, learn from it, alter it and share it - we can move forward and make sure more amazing apps, programs, games and sites will continually be made.
If you make an amazing product that you are immensely proud of and show it off to others, and they agree that it is awesome and want to know how it was made, you would love to tell them exactly how – wouldn’t you? Those who look at your source cannot copy and steal your product, but by sharing your code you can give them new great ideas of how to solve problems in their own projects. Keeping our ideas a secret is how we stun societies' growth.
Explained simply, someone has a great idea, writes down the code and then publishes it on a site like GitHub. GitHub lets users create repositories that contain the code, where the user can choose to make it public or private. If it is set on public, anyone can access the code and download it. And thereafter they can continue working with it, either to improve it or to use it to create something new.
Do you want to share your code? Write it down, put it in a repository on GitHub and share away! If you want to look at open source code, GitHub is full of it! Take a look at GitHub here, and their guide on how to get started.
Go nuts – and why not create tomorrow's most useful app from what you find?