So, you've written (or are planning to write) a piece of software and want to know how open source can help? Good, then you've come to the right place.
Making your software open source can help with its development in many ways. The first and most obvious, is that your users can get access to the source code and potentially spot (and fix) bugs as well as suggest and develop new ideas and features.
The main concern of many people regarding open source, is the old "How can I make money from something I give away for free?".
There are various ways to achieve this. If you don't want to make money from your software, then you can release your software to the public for free, allowing you to gain all the advantages of being open - including a larger user-base and quicker development.
You could (although this isn't very nice from a user's POV) release one version of your software as open source, and also offer an enhanced version commercially (you must still make the source code available though).
As another alternative, you could offer the source code for free, but charge for binary releases.
Another concern with open source is "What if my competitors steal my code?".
This is easy. If, for example, your software was liscenced under the GPL, any other software which uses any of your code must also be released under the GPL. So if anyone was to take your code, you could then take a look at theirs.
Another way to manage this is to write your own liscense. This is not as difficult as it sounds. You could simply take the GPL for example, and add a clause prohibiting the use of your code in commercial applications - whilst remaining open source.
To gain a true understanding of the open source way of working, I strongly suggest you purchase a copy of "The Cathedral & the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond, published by O'Reilly.
Now, to talk about your options of liscense. The most popular is the GPL which you can read and find details of how to apply it here.
There are also multiple other liscense available which you could use. For a selection of liscenses which have been approved by the open source initiative, go here.
The is so much information available on the internet about open source, but here is a small list of some of the best: -
If anyone wishes to make any ammendments or contribute to this article, please e-mail me.