Open source means (amongst other things) that you have access to the source code. But what if you have no intention of even looking at the code, is access to the source code important to you?
It should be.
To illustrate why, let me paint a picture:
You’re IT department has installed a new piece of software across all desktops in the organisation. Your users like it, in fact, it becomes a key part of their daily life. Everyone is happy.
Over time the software improves and bugs are fixed. It’s time to upgrade to a newer version.
It’s going to cost money, so you enter a new procurement phase, the decision is upgrade to the latest and greatest version of the current solution or switch to another solution. The upgrade is cheaper, in terms of technical, licence and training costs and the competitors are not significantly better, so upgrade it is.
[Notice it makes no difference up to this point as to whether you have access to the source or not.]
More time passes, technology has moved on and your users are demanding another upgrade so they can do all the latest cool stuff. Time for a new procurement phase.
Now, lets imaging that the company behind your chosen product has decided to stop supporting it. It is at this point that access to the source becomes important.
A closed source product would have been left behind. There would have been no development from the point at which support was withdrawn. You have limited choices, stick with the old version or switch to another product.
On the other hand, an open source solution may have been picked up by any of its users, or more likely a community of its users and development could have continued. If nobody has picked it up you now have that option, instead of spending money on a new product, data conversion and retraining you could take the code and start a new project, either with internal resources or by paying a third party. Of course, you could still choose to switch to another product, but remember that your data conversion costs will almost certainly be lower since you have access to the source code of your existing solution.
We don’t like to fork open source, but sometimes, if the original community is broken we need to. It is the potential to fork that makes open source sustainable.