The Promise of an Open Source Future in an E-Commerce World
Open source refers to software whose source code is available for anybody to access and modify, while proprietary software refers to software which is solely owned by the individual or company that developed it.
With the continued rise of online shopping and e-commerce solutions across the globe (the top 500 companies globally registered a nearly 50 percent increase in year-over-year online sales in 2020), it's worth considering the role of open-source software and its importance in this growing sector.
Open-source e-commerce solutions have many advantages for businesses, most notably, freedom of choice, full ownership, and complete customization. As the issue of ownership and data in the digital realm is increasingly scrutinized, the ability to fully own and manage storefronts and data in a way that's not possible with traditional proprietary commerce platform solutions holds significant appeal.
How Open-Source Solutions Support Your Online Business Growth
Much like the rise of the creator economy in recent years has democratized content production, open source allows participants at every stage of the e-commerce process to step past the typical hurdles of creating an online business from scratch.
Small businesses can achieve complete flexibility in designing and maintaining their stores down to the tiniest detail. For example, a clothing business can modify its website design and capabilities on the fly to better accommodate an influx of customers with a different set of priorities to the original target market — e.g., scaling the business as needed in a fluid manner.
Structurally, open source gives software developers and development agencies the freedom to delve into every line of code written for a given platform and change as much or as little as they like. These groups are in constant control of every aspect of their websites regardless of circumstance, no longer reliant on third-party platforms that centralize control and dictate key product decisions.
With Open Source, Customization is Embraced
One of the most overlooked benefits of open-source e-commerce solutions is their universal ability to quickly turn interests and ideas into revenue streams, with almost limitless choice and customization, and without significant development and startup capital. Custom builds in proprietary environments usually require complex, expensive and bespoke solutions.
Sellers can customize store offerings with a host of extensions built by teams of developers all over the world. An example could be improvements to the email and CRM tools used to engage with customers. Store owners can choose and install from a host of plugins developed by some of the world’s biggest CRM companies with just a few simple clicks to get set up and running.
A Distributed, Open and Transparent Tech Future
Many will be familiar with the term “Web3.” While it has yet to be defined with consensus, it can be summed up as a new iteration of the World Wide Web: entirely decentralized, and not belonging to any one person or organization. This new era is the perfect environment for open-source principles to thrive, as Web3’s equal distribution is a natural extension of the freedom and transparency offered by open source.
The world of coding began from individuals sharing their progress to evolve computing as a collective. As time has gone by, this formerly open system has been consolidated extensively. In time, the future of the e-commerce industry will see a return to the original collaborative mindset. By embracing open source now, everyone can leave their mark on the system, and pull each other up in the process.
Elina Vilk is the chief marketing officer of WooCommerce, an open-source e-commerce platform.
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