Why Web3 Needs Open-Source Software
When you think about web3, does open-source software immediately come to mind? Many developers have deep roots and actively engage in both communities, which is not really surprising—web3 and open-source software (OSS) are built on many of the same principles. Decentralization, transparency, and open collaboration are just some of the pillars that are foundational to both OSS and web3.
The very essence of web3 is open source—and open-source software can help to make your web3 project more sustainable and secure. Keep reading to understand the benefits of open-source software for web3 developers, and learn how to integrate OSS into your web3 development workflow. Find out which major web3 projects are open source—some of the examples may surprise you!
Benefits of open-source software for web3
Any web3 developer can choose to leverage open-source software. Check out these key benefits of OSS for web3:
- Efficiency: Building upon existing open-source code, web3 developers can significantly accelerate time to market and reduce development costs for web3 projects.
- Potential for customization: Web3 devs using open-source software are empowered to customize and tailor OSS to meet their unique project needs. Developers accustomed to composability can add or remove features as required.
- Code transparency: Open-source code, like much of the code in web3, is publicly available for review. The transparency of open-source code enables anyone to audit the code to understand how the software works.
- Code scrutiny: Open-source code is transparent and accessible to all, making it very easy to review. Frequent code reviews encourage OSS developers to address vulnerabilities more quickly and help to make OSS software more secure. These independent reviews and responses from open-source software developers also enable OSS projects and builders to establish their reputations over time.
- Potential for rapid innovation: The collaborative nature of open-source software development can support rapid technological innovation. Just like web3, open-source software benefits from contributions by many people with different skill sets from around the world.
The ecosystem created together by open-source software and web3 can provide mutual benefit and introduce new incentives for open-source developers. Specifically, blockchain technology enables OSS developers to own and control their work, earn rewards, improve interoperability, accelerate innovation, and simply collaborate better.
How to leverage OSS to strengthen your web3 project
You may be wondering exactly how you can integrate open-source software into your web3 project. The good news is that the process isn’t much different from the one you’re already using.
Integrating one or more OSS components requires identifying open-source software that aligns with your project, conducting an extensive audit, testing, and diving into the documentation to thoroughly understand what to expect from the code. This integration can unlock significant benefits such as customization options, enterprise features, and perhaps new revenue streams.
Keep reading to understand how developers can best leverage open-source software to fortify and enhance their web3 projects.
1. Select open-source software prudently
The open-source software ecosystem supports a wide range of tools, libraries, and frameworks that anyone can use. Developers should carefully choose OSS components that align with their web3 project's objectives.
What should you evaluate when selecting open-source software? Pay attention to software quality, community support, and licensing terms, among other factors, to ensure that your software selection seamlessly integrates and enhances your project.
The tricky part for developers, in web2 and web3, is identifying the best open-source software to use. OSS is distributed across package managers and other platforms, and the reputation of an OSS project is often difficult to discern or verify. Software developers typically must rely on recommendations from other developers, or dedicate material time to conducting their own research.
2. Implement automated testing
Automated testing is core to prudently integrating open-source software. Developers can write code to automatically run tests designed to ensure that an open-source software component behaves as expected. Automated testing can focus on both unit tests that examine individual OSS components and integration tests that examine the interactions between OSS and other software components.
Taking a proactive approach to testing requires extra effort but can minimize compatibility issues.
3. Regularly conduct security audits
Regularly auditing the security of open-source software components within a web3 project is essential to maintaining a tech stack that is secure and resilient. Auditing frequently for security vulnerabilities can enable early detection, which may support timely remediation and limited negative consequences. The first audit should be conducted before integrating any new open-source software, while ongoing audits, whether automated or manual, can occur as new versions of the open-source software are released. Although manual audits are typically more time consuming, they may detect security risks that an automated audit would miss.
Just like developers are challenged to efficiently identify the best open-source software, fully understanding the security of an individual OSS project can be difficult. The quality of project maintenance and frequency of updates may vary widely; OSS projects often depend on other OSS libraries, creating chains of dependencies; and contributions to open-source software projects come from a variety of sources. Regular security audits are vital to ensure that OSS only positively impacts your project.
4. Customize and optimize open-source software
A developer can significantly enhance their web3 project by customizing and optimizing open-source software to support the project’s unique requirements. Let’s examine some of the aspects of open-source software that can be tailored:
- Software functionality
- Scalability and performance
- Business logic
- User interface
- Security protocols
- Resource utilization
Customizing open-source software can be immensely beneficial for web3 developers but should be done cautiously and with a thorough understanding of both the original software and the web3 project's requirements. Any customizations to OSS should be thoroughly documented and tested.
5. Consider using enterprise features and support
Open-source software is generally free to use, modify, and distribute—although some projects use "freemium" or "open-core" models to support advanced or enterprise-level features. Web3 developers can consider integrating premium features of OSS to accelerate progress, enhance user trust, and ensure long-term project viability.
What are some specific advantages of using enterprise-grade open-source software? Let’s take a look:
- More customization options
- Enhanced scalability
- Better technical support
- Increased software uptime
- Enhanced security
- Timely software updates and maintenance
- Compliance and auditing support
Before adopting the premium version of any open-source software, web3 developers should also consider the potential disadvantages. Higher costs, vendor lock-in, and restrictive terms of service should all be carefully evaluated.
6. Create and monetize proprietary features
Web3 projects can potentially create new revenue streams by building proprietary features or enhancements for open-source software. Just like some OSS projects support premium features that are monetized, web3 projects can financially benefit from making open-source software better.
Web3 devs may be uniquely positioned to improve open-source software. If you’re knowledgeable about tokenization, smart contracts, decentralized finance, or using blockchain technology to improve interoperability or scalability—then you may find profitable opportunities to augment open-source software.
7. Engage with the open-source software community
Collaboration is essential to both OSS and web3—and asking for help when you need it is an important part of successfully integrating open-source software into your web3 project. OSS projects typically support digital forums where software developers, maintainers, and users can freely interact.
Even if you don’t have a technical problem, engaging with the community that supports an OSS project is still a smart move. Becoming an active member of an OSS community can enhance your technical knowledge, provide updates about software developments, and enable you to build relationships within the open-source software ecosystem. Community matters in OSS, just like in web3.
8. Form strategic partnerships
OSS and web3 are natural strategic partners. Web3 project developers can collaborate directly with open-source software projects to establish customized relationships that are mutually beneficial. Let’s examine some of the potential benefits of aligning with an OSS project via a strategic partnership agreement:
- Ability to share development resources and infrastructure
- Ability to exchange technical knowledge
- Potential to augment the existing open-source feature set by contributing code back to the OSS project
- Cross-platform promotion opportunities
- Access to new geographic markets
- Enhanced credibility
- Faster innovation
9. Ensure that your usage is compliant
Open-source software may be released under permissive licenses that allow for commercial use without mandatory contributions. An important part of using open-source software in a responsible way is ensuring that your usage is compliant with all the terms and conditions.
10. Replicate OSS best practices by providing your team with documentation and training
Another way to successfully integrate open-source software into your web3 application or project is to provide your team with sufficient documentation and training. Many OSS projects create documentation in the form of developer guides, FAQs, and API integration instructions. OSS projects that offer training may create tutorials, webinars, workshops, or online courses.
The most established open-source software projects are most likely to provide extensive documentation and training. Resources to support OSS users are typically generated by the same community that contributes to the development of the open-source software.
Examples of web3 OSS projects
Did you know? Many popular web3 projects—including blockchain networks, layer-2 scaling solutions, and decentralized applications—are built on open-source code. Let’s explore some examples of prominent web3 projects that are open source:
- Bitcoin: The best-known cryptocurrency—Bitcoin—is built as open-source software. The entire Bitcoin codebase is publicly accessible.
- Ethereum: Ethereum is another well-known blockchain that’s open source. Anyone can inspect and contribute to its codebase, including the Ethereum Virtual Machine.
- Chainlink: Another important web3 project that’s built on open-source code is Chainlink, the decentralized oracle service. Chainlink being OSS is fundamental to its design as a transparent and credible data provider.
- Aave: Aave is an open-source decentralized finance platform that facilitates peer-to-peer lending and borrowing. Aave's codebase is open source to maximize the platform’s transparency and enable community-driven development.
- InterPlanetary File System: The InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS, is an open-source protocol that supports decentralized data storage. Anyone can view, contribute to, or use the IPFS codebase.
The open-source future of web3
Open-source development is not merely a collaborative way to create software—OSS represents a transformative ideology that has helped to shape the foundational tenets of web3. As the race for market share in web3 intensifies, those web3 projects that actively leverage—and contribute to!—open-source software may be the best positioned to sustainably succeed.