When it comes to the choice of a software platform upon which to build your ecommerce store, you basically have three choices. You can build you own from scratch, use open source software to create a custom store, or you can go with closed source software specifically designed to facilitate your business.
Of the three, building your own from scratch is fraught with the most expense. If you have the resources, it’s a great way to go. But if you don’t, the question becomes which platform delivers a better store, open source or proprietary? Before we get into that, let’s define open source and closed source (or proprietary) software.
Open & Closed Source Software
Said simply, open source software is offered for the general public to use and modify as they best see fit, and is typically free to use. Because of this, it can be molded into the shape ideally suited for the task at hand.
Inherent to this is the fact that developers are welcome to get in and modify the code. Completely democratic, open source software gets back to the roots of what the Internet was originally supposed to be about; a collective sharing of all of the knowledge of the world. Of course, the only problem with utopias is the utter predictability of human behavior—somebody’s always going to be trying to find a way to beat the system for their own self-interest. In the case of open source software, its free-for-all philosophy means it’s also open to scoundrels.
Proprietary software is provided under license. Modification, copying and redistributing are prohibited. In other words, nobody can just waltz in the back door and look around without encountering a lot of questions. Further, unauthorized changes are strictly prohibited. This means if you’re using it as a platform for your ecommerce business, you’ll have a choice of a set number of templates and plug-ins with which to build your store. What you get is what they’ve got. While this might sound limiting, it also means it’s less likely to be cracked by rogues because the code is so carefully guarded.
Popular eCommerce Platforms
In the world of ecommerce software, two of the most popular platforms are Magento Enterprise (open source) and Shopify Plus (proprietary).In a comparison of Magento Enterprise and Shopify Plus, you’ll find you have more flexibility with Magento, but you’ll also have more potential issues. This means you’ll need someone adept with code to set up your store and you’ll need their ongoing support to implement improvements, bug fixes and the like as they evolve. Open source software looks free at a glance, but the fact of the matter is once you have it you’ll spend some pretty serious coin to keep it on the cutting edge—unless you’re really good at coding and that’s all you have on your plate.
With closed source software, you’ll pay licensing fees to acquire it, but once you have it, the developer takes care of the back end. Because they do the heavy lifting, you can get by with little to no technical expertise. In fact, chief among the advantages of closed source software is the accessible support.
A Guide to E-Commerce Platforms
While it’s true there’s a robust community of users out there for most open source software, you’ll be reduced to crawling through forums to try to find the answer to a technical issue. With closed source software, you simply IM tech support or place a phone call. For most beginning ecommerce entrepreneurs wondering which platform delivers a better store—open source or proprietary—the answer is proprietary.