Open source

What is open source?

Open source refers to the practice of making the source code of a software or hardware project openly available to the public. Users have the right to access, view, modify, and distribute the source code according to the terms specified by the applicable open-source license. Open-source licenses dictate the specific permissions and restrictions for using and distributing open-source software or hardware. These licenses ensure that the freedom to view, modify, and share the source code is preserved.

Open source is not the same as open standard. Open source involves source code while open standard involves a written specification.


While open source and open standards share the principle of openness, they differ in the specific nature of what is being made openly available. Open source involves the release of source code, granting users the freedom to modify and distribute it, while open standards focus on providing publicly accessible specifications for technology or system interoperability.

Is RISC-V open source?

No, RISC-V is not open source, RISC-V is an open standard. The RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) is openly available, allowing anyone to implement their own processors or designs based on the RISC-V specifications.

As an open standard, RISC-V provides a common framework and specifications for developing processors, which allows for compatibility and interchangeability between different implementations. This promotes innovation, collaboration, and competition in the design and development of processors.

While the RISC-V ISA itself is open, implementations of RISC-V processors can vary in terms of their openness. Some RISC-V implementations are indeed open source, making the complete design and source code available to the public. However, there can also be proprietary implementations of RISC-V processors, developed and offered by companies like Codasip, which are commercial and compliant with the RISC-V ISA.

In a dedicated article, we explain the difference between open-source and commercial RISC-V licensing models for processor IP.

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