After initially beginning in 1983 as the “free software movement,” it wasn’t until 1998 that open-source software (OSS) gained its current name and began changing the world of creating computer programs. What OSS is exactly is computer software with its source code designed to be publicly accessible so people can manipulate and improve how the piece of software works.
Why this has created so much success and innovation is that it is essentially a collaborative effort from multiple independent sources, creating an increasingly more diverse level of design perspective than any one, single company would be capable of.
To quickly give an example demonstrating how beneficial the OSS movement has truly been, there was a report done by the Standish Group in 2008 that states the adoption of OSS software has in turn created a savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers. If that isn’t a positive and significant impact, then I don’t know what is.
Not only has OSS saved billions of dollars, but it has also created billion dollar ideas. As stated above, OSS allows multiple individuals to view code and tweak it any way that they see fit, sometimes creating something no one else had thought of. It is a constant collaborative effort of trying to improve on other’s improvements, essentially building the best software possible.
In 1998, Netscape Communications Corporation released their popular Netscape Communicator Internet as free software, which became the first major company to do so. Once other individuals and companies began viewing and tweaking the Netscape software for their own usages, it subsequently became the basis behind Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, KompoZer and SeaMonkey. So, essentially, without Netscape’s source code being made an OSS, the big-name browsers and projects mentioned above would not exist.
Another reason OSS has led to massive innovation is because it offers the potential for a more malleable technology and faster innovation. Any OSS is usually deemed more reliable since it potentially has thousands of individual programmers constantly testing and fixing any bugs within the software. Programmers are also capable of using an OSS to build custom interfaces and add new abilities to it.
As stated multiple times above, most OSS’s have thousands of independent programmers working on a single source code, collaborating with people they’ve never met before and most likely never will, all in the hopes of building a bigger and better software.
Many times there are no corporate pressures, but simply driven individuals looking to merely improve technology for humanity’s sake—or just for personal gain, but still, not for a corporation. This allows programmers’ creative juices to flow, as there are no guidelines or specific goals in mind, but to merely improve the software to the best of their ability. Teaming up with other programmers allows ideas to bounce back and forth, constantly being improved and built upon.
If that isn’t innovative, then I don’t know what is.
If you want to learn more about this, check out the video below!