The concept behind open source software was born in the 1980s and grounded in the belief that collaboration enhances function and that constant improvements are more important than strict propriety control. This type of software is created and shared by programmers to continually improve its code.
Richard Stallman initiated the first project to develop a free operating system called GNU in 1984 and a year later founded the Free Software Foundation to support and encourage free software development. The first open source software license issued in 1989 established the ground rules, which says that anyone can use, modify, and redistribute the software, providing that they include any changes under the original license. Richard Stallman referred to this type of software as Free Open Source Software or FOSS.
the open source community
Programmers in the open source community are more interested in being able to inspect, debug, change, and improve software than they are in creating corporate-owned software which has unavailable source code. Instead, they produce useful, efficient, bug-free, and—most importantly—constantly evolving software that everyone can benefit from. It was, after all, due to the inability to access the source code of a printer driver that Stallman saw a need for free/open source software.
Part of the reason that open source software is so successful is because of the inclusive, self-governed community environment. The “community” is a collaboration of developers, end-users, technical gurus, and others that come together to influence the project. Continuous modification and feedback gradually shapes the function and performance by enhancing usability and capability thresholds.
open source convention
The largest open source convetion in the world is the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) which has taken place annually in the United States since 1999. We’ve been a proud sponsor of OSCON since 2010 and we often send developers to speak and teach there. We support the open source community because our values align in making it easier for people everywhere to be successful online.
benefits for small businesses
Open source enables business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to eliminate some, if not most, of the financial burdens of operating a business. Even if you choose to use a closed source operating system like Microsoft Windows or OS X, you can still benefit from open source software, which is free to download and use.
OSS includes office productivity suites, accounting apps, ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, CRM (customer relationship management) systems, content management systems, and e-commerce tools. The features may not always be as comprehensive as their closed source counterpart, but the majority of users rarely use anything beyond the basics anyway.
Most small businesses aren’t aware of OSS alternatives because due to limited finances they aren’t marketed well and are therefore difficult to find. In addition, small business owners may be concerned about getting adequate support. Datamation offers a comprehensive list of the most popular and useful open source software options for small businesses, most of which offer paid support at a reasonable cost.
taking the corporate world by storm
The 2015 Future of Open Source Survey, sponsored by North Bridge Venture Partners and Black Duck Software, reveals that the number of companies running all or part of their operations on open source software has almost doubled in the past five years, from about 42 percent to almost 80 percent. In addition, 64 percent of companies who participated in the survey create open source software for customers.
Many of the “cloud” services people use every day are built on open source software. Companies like Facebook and Twitter and Netflix not only use a large amount of open source software, but they often release the tools they write internally as open source projects as well. Apple also uses open source, though they tend to give much less back. Android is built on Linux. Even Microsoft has started to become more involved in open source.
With 5 out of 6 developers using—or deploying—open source software, it’s clear that the changing landscape is accelerating new technology innovation. Some experts expect OSS to find a home on desktop computing devices in the next few years.
For more information on Open Source visit the Open Source Initiative FAQ page and watch this short educational video by Intel’s Open Source Technology Center.