There are a lot of terms that are used that assumes everyone is a little technical and open source ecommerce platform is one of them. The goal of this article is to really breakdown the term open source ecommerce platform for you so you can make the right decision as you are looking for which shopping cart platform might be the best fit for you.
Open Source Ecommerce Platform
Open source by definition means that the source code that the developers used to create the platform is available for other developers to access and update directly. This means that the platform can be increased and enhanced by other third party developers and there is not really a centralized or proprietary version of the platform available. For ecommerce, the most common open source ecommerce shopping carts you will hear about are WooCommerce, Magento and Zencart. To be fair, Zencart is well past its prime but has been around for a long time. WooCommerce is powered within the wordpress community so just as anyone can edit wordpress pages, themes or functions, you are also able to update directly and add to the Woocommerce capabilities.
This is a double edged sword for most since this increased capability can be overwhelming and traditionally requires an ecommerce website development agency to help you with that. As a result, the cost to run the platform can be cheaper when compared to alternatives but you make up that spend in paying development hours for setup and maintenance.
Hosted Ecommerce Platform
The alternative to an open source ecommerce platform is a hosted ecommerce platform. This is what Shopify and BigCommerce are for example. Where you signup and use their website to edit, publish using an editor. No one has access to the Shopify or BigCommerce code directly but can add plugins or create integrations using their APIs to get access to data used within your shops. This typically is a little more cost monthly to run but allows for most novice sellers to get up and running without much technical knowledge.
If you are on the search for your next shopping cart platform and keep coming across the term open source ecommerce platform you just need to ask yourself if you are okay getting a little technical or working with developers or do you want to be completely hands off. Hosted solutions are much easier to get setup and running but can limit you on what your features are long run since you are at the limit of that platforms priorities not your own.