Some may already be familiar with the term 'open source'. Especially those who have experience with programming. But what does it actually mean? In the following article we explain what it means and what advantages this model has.

Open source code

By far the most important feature of open source software is the transparency of the program code.

If you install a program from the Internet, you usually only get an executable binary file (for example an .exe).

A binary file is a "pre-compiled" version of the source code, which has the advantage that it is much easier to handle. The user no longer has to compile the code himself, and just has to execute a single file. However, after the code is compiled, the content of the program is no longer directly traceable, since it is expressed in machine code. The user must trust the developer that the program does not contain any malware.

The source code of the BitBoxApp

To avoid having to trust the developer completely, the developer may decide to publish the uncompiled source code, making it available for anyone to see. This publication of the source code is the basic requirement for open source software.

Auditability

Thanks to this open source code, it is possible to understand how secure or insecure a program is. Other programmers can check the code for security vulnerabilities and make suggestions for improvement.

Especially for very security-relevant programs, such as a Bitcoin wallet, this feature is essential. For this reason, both the firmware of the BitBox02 and the BitBoxApp can be openly viewed and compiled by anyone.

With the help of our documentation, the firmware of the BitBox02 can be compiled by yourself. This ensures that the device really runs the software that is available online. With the help of the firmware hash, this comparison can be done quickly and easily.

Licenses

Open source software should always be released with a very free license that allows other programmers to view the code, modify it and publish these changes.

Comparison of different licenses - Source: Semantic Scholar

Often certain restrictions apply, such as that the published changes may not be commercially distributed (i.e. sold). Licenses that do not allow changes to the code are also called "shared source" - so they are not open source.

Forks

These modified versions are called "forks", because they split off from the main code much like a fork. Forks can be used to create completely new programs based on the code of another program.

Version 0.11a is a fork of the program

In this way conflicts between developers of a program can be solved. If it cannot be agreed upon which changes are introduced, the program can be "forked" at any time.

Cooperation

Due to these characteristics open source software is absolutely necessary for the collaboration of several programmers, who neither know each other nor have to trust each other.

It is the open-source model that enables developments such as Bitcoin, on which thousands of people around the world collaborate. Ultimately, the general public benefits from open source software because it is freely available to everyone and the code can be developed and used by anyone.

Open source gives control back to the user. Instead of using pre-compiled programs, the user has the ability to modify the software to their liking and understand what it actually does.


Don’t own a BitBox yet?

Keeping your crypto secure doesn't have to be hard. The BitBox02 hardware wallet stores the private keys for your cryptocurrencies offline. So you can manage your coins safely.

The BitBox02 also comes in Bitcoin-only version, featuring a radically focused firmware: less code means less attack surface, which further improves your security when only storing Bitcoin.

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Shift Crypto is a privately held company based in Zurich, Switzerland. Our international team of specialists across engineering, cryptosecurity and Bitcoin core development build the BitBox products and provide consulting services. The BitBox02, a second generation hardware wallet, equips individuals to easily store, protect, and transact cryptocurrencies. Its companion, the BitBoxApp, provides an all-in-one solution to securely manage your digital assets with ease.