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Is an open source app builder right for you? - Intuit Developer Community Blog

July 30, 2021 | Intuit Developer Team

Is an open source app builder right for you?

In today’s world, you would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t use an app (or two or three) in their daily life. Statista reports there were 218 billion mobile app downloads worldwide in 2020 (compared to 140.7 billion in 2016).

The app market is obviously booming, and companies and developers want to get in on it – but there are some roadblocks, such as how much it costs to develop an app. Thankfully, there are cost-effective solutions, such as app builders who use open source software.

Open source software to open source app builders

In the late 1990s, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was formed and the term “open source” was coined. Per the OSI, “Open source software is made by many people and distributed under an OSD-compliant license which grants all the rights to use, study, change, and share the software in modified and unmodified form. Software freedom is essential to enabling community development of open source software.”

Now, 20 years later, open source software is being used by enterprises around the world. In 2020, Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report showed that 95% of the 950 IT leaders they spoke with consider adopting open source software as a strategically sound decision, with 52% citing security as a top benefit. Only 42% said they’re using proprietary or closed software. Although Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report has been updated for 2021 and the numbers have slightly changed, the popularity of open source software continues to rise, with 79% of the 1,250 respondents in the report expecting their “use of enterprise open source software for emerging technologies to increase over the next two years.”

With proprietary software use diminishing, open source software use increasing, and the app market growing like crazy – along with skyrocketing entry costs impeding many businesses and developers from taking advantage – it’s no surprise that open source app builders are becoming a popular, cost-effective option for building apps.

What is an open source app builder?

It’s a tool for easily and affordably creating mobile apps that use open source software. Developers can access, modify, and enhance the app builder’s code, adding and removing features as necessary.

One of the first app builders was ShoutEm, which started as a tool for creating microblogging communities in 2008. The company then pivoted to mobile apps in 2011. They say they take care of the “drudge-work” by providing their open source platform, and allowing developers and companies to create “truly native and cross-platform mobile apps” without the need to write any code.

Is an open source app builder for you?

Knowing the benefits may help you decide if an open source app builder is good for you:

  1. Anyone can build an app using an open source app builder. You don’t need programming skills with a no code solution. The most important thing is being able to follow the directions supplied by the app builder of your choice.
  2. There are many open source app builders that are free. Yes, free. Appy Pie, the “#1 No code development platform,” is one example, though the company does have three paid versions with advanced features. Paid or free, Appy Pie says they are a “no code app maker that lets anyone build apps in three easy steps.”
  3. Three steps to create an app leads to speed, another benefit. “Mobile app development from scratch takes far too long and pushes some of the greatest app ideas (with lower business returns) to the back burner,” Appy Pie notes. “Low code and no code development help make mobile application development 10 times faster.”

Championing open source software

The benefits of using an open source app builder are clear, but as with every decision, there are pros and cons. You’ll want to do your research on app builders and open source software.

As a company that is building a culture of open source, Intuit® champions the ideals of open source software, which include transparency, collaboration, and community. Intuit’s Diana De Rose discusses this topic in Why is the open source community driving innovation in the tech industry?.

“The open source software community is connected by their shared passion to solve problems through technology and the belief that the more contributors there are, the better the result,” she writes. “The diversity of ideas, talents, and experience of every contributing developer allows the software to continuously evolve. This evolution is what innovation is all about—creating a new or improved product by being inspired by others within the community.

“At Intuit Developer Group, we work with several third-party developers and partners to build apps for QuickBooks® Online by leveraging our open source SDKs and sample code that are available for the developer community to use,” continues Diana. “Developers can modify these tools as needed for their unique applications, or simply use the tools to get a jump start on their app integrations. Together, we can make better, more innovative applications that solve our customer’s problems.”

Inuit is passionate about helping solve our customers’ problems. Whether you decide an open source app builder is right for you, we’re here to assist you as you work to grow your business. Powering prosperity around the world is not just our mission – it’s our promise.