Netscape released the source code for Mozilla in 1998; after that, a bunch of leaders in the free software world gathered in Palo Alto to discuss the term. Christine Peterson then coined "open source" to describe free software, while Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond founded the Open Source Institute.

Long story short... ☺️

What's in here?

What is open source and the open source way, and why do people like it?

What is open source software, and how does it compare to closed source software?

What are Jira-like open source tool alternatives? Ten of those!

What is open source?

“Open source” refers to something you can modify and share, as it’s publicly available. It comes from “open source software” (OSS) - a specific approach to creating computer programs via code that is designed for public accessibility.

Nowadays, when we say “open source”, we’re usually referring to a certain set of values.

5 values of the open source way
The open source way

What is the open source way?

Open source is a bit like Agile in the sense that it’s a culture; it leans on a certain set of values, or ways to go about building something. We call it the open source way, where projects and products are built on a foundation of transparency, collaboration, rapid prototyping, inclusion and community.

1. Transparency

Whether you’re building software or selling lemonade, the information you have access to matters as it allows you to do your best. If you were to come across the magic tip of adding rosewater to your lemonade, you’d be in for quite a revelation, and so will everyone else after.

There’s no doubt that by giving people access to the same information, you’re opening the space for truly creative collaboration; but that’s not all. What also happens when people come together this way is that they start to feel more accountable to the work, and that’s a sure way to reach better outcomes.

2. Collaboration

The creative process is a funny thing, it’s intuitive, nonlinear; and it works really nicely in groups. Take the case of marketing campaigns where the creative process gets unleashed and random thoughts start flying around; or filmmaking where countless individuals contribute towards the end product.  

Collaboration allows us to know more; to create more than we would on our own. When people are free to participate, they tend to enhance each other’s work in ways you wouldn’t expect.

3. Frequent release

Open source is synonymous with rapid prototyping. The idea is to release new versions, features, products as early, and as often as possible. The more prototypes you get out there, the more discoveries you’ll make; it’s basic trial and error.

Anyone who’s worked with Agile knows that the key to innovation is iteration. When you’re free to experiment often, you’ll most probably find new, better ways to do something.

4. Inclusion

A truly inclusive space pulls people in; it’s where they feel like they can offer their knowledge and talents in a valuable way, for the benefit of others. In essence, people care about each other, they usually enjoy helping if they can.

Good ideas can come from anywhere, and only by considering various perspectives do we really reach our best outcome. Otherwise, how do we know that what we’ve got is the best idea?

Here’s a way to turn a prioritization session into a collaborative process.

5. Community

Communities are born from a sense of unity towards a common ground, a common purpose in a way. They share values that become the backbone for decision making, and so their sense of community takes over their individual agendas.  

Unlike traditional projects, sharing economies grow as people contribute to a shared effort. The open source community is so diverse, it’s almost impossible to not find someone who can help you; or vice versa.

What is open source software?

When we say “open source software”, what we’re talking about is the possibility to inspect, change or add to the source code of a certain software. The source code is the actual code programmers play with to modify the way an app works; say by adding a feature or fixing a specific function.

Open source software - the 4 freedoms
4 freedoms of open source software

Open source software (or free software) essentially refers to four types of freedom:

  1. Freedom to run the program
  2. Freedom to study and change its source code
  3. Freedom to redistribute exact copies of it
  4. Freedom to distribute modified versions

What is the difference between open source software and closed source software?

Closed source software

When the source code of a software is only available to the person, team or company that created it, we call it proprietary software or closed source software. It means that only the original authors of that source code are allowed to touch it.

When you install/use proprietary software (like Adobe for example), you always begin by signing a license that clearly states how illegal it is for you to meddle with the source code. 😬

Open source software

When authors of a source code choose to make it available to others who wish to view, learn from, copy, change or share it with others, we call this open source software.

Being encouraged to improve upon open-source software doesn’t mean we forget about the licenses; they still exist. For more on open source licenses, check this out.

Open software vs. closed software: the differences
Open software vs. closed software

Who benefits from open source software?

To put it simply; everyone benefits from open source software. Think of how often we use the internet today, then think back to the early days where most inventors were building on open source technologies like Linux or Apache.

Everytime you browse, check your email, stream music or play computer games online, you’re using some open source software. To be more specific, when you access programs on remote computers by using a web browser or mobile app, what you’re doing is “remote computing” or “cloud computing”. Cloud computing applications like Google Play are proprietary; others like Ghost are open source.

Here’s a good link for ideas on how to build a business on open source, with business models and some market analysis.

Why do people like open source?

1. Control
The reason we like open source is that it allows us control over software; we get to look at it, then change and mold it into what works for us.  

2. Training
Given open source code is publicly accessible, students can easily study it as they learn to make better software. They get to share their work with others, get critiqued and learn.

3. Security
Some people consider open source software to be more secure and stable than proprietary software. After all, anyone can view and modify it, which means errors get corrected fast and updates are more frequent.

4. Stability
Many users prefer open source software for long-term projects because they’re certain that the tools won’t disappear if the original creators stopped working on them. Also, open source operates according to open standards.

5. Community
As mentioned already, open source software is all about community. The community isn't just a fanbase that buys in; it's the people who produce, test, use, promote, and therefore affect the software they love.

Why people love open source
Why do people like open source?

What are some open source platforms?

  • Mozilla Firefox wants to keep the internet open and accessible to all, by making open source browsers, apps, code and tools.
  • Apache web server is an open source HTTP server for modern operating systems developed and maintained by the Apache HTTP Server Project since 1996.
  • jQuery is a feature-rich JavaScript library for things like HTML document management, event handling, animation, and so on.
  • LibreOffice is a free office suite with various applications like Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets, and others; for presentations, vector graphics, databases and so on.
  • VLC Media is a free and open source multimedia player that will run most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and streaming protocols.
  • GIMP is a free, cross-platform image editor for GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows and other operating systems.
  • Crello is a completely free web-based designing tool, very similar to Canva.
  • Unsplash is a source for freely-usable photos on the internet.

If you want access to some good open source resources, this is great!

What's the deal with open source and Atlassian?

Atlassian appreciates teams that do open source, and their way of support is by offering standard cloud products for free, for open source projects to use.

The open source project has to meet a few criteria in order to be approved:

  • The project license should be approved by the Open Source Initiative
  • The project source code should be available for download
  • The project has a website that can be accessed publicly
  • Atlassian's software has to be accessible to the public

Here’s a link for more details on how to go about applying for an open source subscription with Atlassian.

What are Jira-like open source tool alternatives?

Jira is great for agile project management; it’s highly customizable and it’s free for up to 10 users. Beyond that, it gets a little more expensive and could be complex if you’re using it for the first time.

There are a few open-source agile tools like Jira, that can help with project management without the cost. Here’s a list of some of the best Jira-like open source tools.


GitLab is a platform for DevOps, featuring task management functionalities for source code and project planning. GitLab codes are available with the same features as the free version; for commercial use, they have two paid versions.

Gitlab free community edition to track issues
GitLab community edition (image rights)

GitLab features

  • Granular user roles
  • SSH keys restriction
  • Code testing and coverage
  • Container registry
  • Issue tracking
  • Code analytics
  • Design management

Taiga is a project management platform that is great for defining deliverables and prioritizing tasks in multifunctional agile teams. It’s an open source platform with a freemium version.

Taiga project management platform for prioritizing tasks - open source
Taiga project management (image rights)

Taiga features

  • Customized workflows (subtasks and epics)
  • Filter options
  • Windows Information Protection (WIP) limits
  • Sprint/backlog estimation
  • Bug and issue tracking
  • Performance dashboard
  • Custom tags and fields
  • Embedded onboarding
  • Project export/import


Redmine is a free, open-source project management software with time and issue tracking possibilities for multiple projects. Redmine allows self-registration and can be integrated with many version control systems.

Redline open source project management software for time and issue tracking
Redmine open-source project management (image rights)

Redmine features:

  • Issue tracking
  • Permissions
  • Calendars
  • Supply chain management (SCM) integration
  • Custom fields
  • User self-registration
  • LDAP authentication


Kanboard is a project management software that is great for visualizing tasks in a Kanban-fashion, overviews, board sharing and analytics. It is completely free and one of the most trusted open-source Jira alternatives.

Free, open source Jira alternative - Kanboard
Kanboard open-source kanban (image rights)

Kanboard features

  • Project duplication (for project templates)
  • Role management
  • Automated task assignment
  • Swim lanes
  • Task management/grouping
  • Board configuration (multiple tasks)
  • Multiple authentication backends


Trac is an issue tracking system, great for progress tracking related to tickets, hyperlinks and version control. You also get a wiki markup for bugs, issue descriptions, files, tasks, and changesets. Trac is completely open-source = free.

Track open source progress tracking
Track issue tracking system

Trac features

  • Extensive plugin system
  • Integration with other tools
  • Account manager/spam filtering
  • SQL queries
  • Customized reports
  • Git and SVN support


Launchpad is an open-source collaboration platform that can be used to build communities. It supports mirroring services and registries, and helps with bugs, cod hosting, translations and mailing lists. It’s an open-source tool = free.

Launchpad open source collaboration for communities
Launchpad collaboration platform (image rights)

Launchpad features

  • Mailing lists
  • Translations
  • Blueprints tracking
  • Bug tracking


Phabricator is a project management solution used to discuss, plan, create, review and test codes for managing project repositories, comments and anecdotes. It supports Wiki and can be used to run unit tests. It’s a popular free, open-source alternative to Jira.

Phabricator open source project management solution
Phabricator project management (image rights)

Phabricator features

  • Task assignment
  • Task priorities
  • Pre-commit code reviews
  • Chat channels and business rules
  • Audit source codes
  • SVN, Mercurial and Git


Restyaboard is a Trello-like project management tool that offers visual boards and sticky notes for managing tasks and creating tickets. Aside from its free community edition, Restyaboard offers a Pro plan and an Enterprise plan.

Trello-like open source project management tool Restyboard
Restyabord project management tool (image rights)

Restyaboard features

  • One space to track everything
  • Easy to import boards
  • Data transmission and migration
  • Copy board option
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • User permissions


Tuleap is an open-source agile project and product management platform designed to improve collaboration across multi-profile teams. It supports DevOp practices for building workspaces and managing large datasets. The community edition of Tuleap is free and open source, their premium plan isn’t.

Tuleap open source agile project and product management platform
Tuleap product management platform (image rights)

Tuleap features

  • Documents/deliveries for versions and controls
  • Requirement baseline
  • Test management
  • Code reviews
  • Issue tracking
  • Workflow automation
  • Gitlab, SVN, and Git


Odoo offers an open-source development model for automating business processes; it’s ideal for tracking tasks and projects. Odoo’s community edition is free and open source, their premium plans aren’t.

Odoo open source development model for tracking tasks
Odoo development model (image rights)

Odoo features

  • Smart filters for multi-project search
  • Pivot tables/graphs
  • Time tracking
  • Task archiving
  • Document management
  • Gantt charts