What is Open Source Technology?

Open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology. Before the term open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet, and the attendant need for massive retooling of the computing source code. Opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities. Subsequently, a new, three-word phrase "open source software" was born to describe the environment that the new copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues created.

The open source model includes the concept of concurrent yet different agendas and differing approaches in production, in contrast with more centralized models of development such as those typically used in commercial software companies. A main principle and practice of open source software development is peer production by bartering and collaboration, with the end-product, source-material, "blueprints" and documentation available at no cost to the public. This is increasingly being applied in other fields of endeavor, such as biotechnology.

History of Open Source

The concept of open source and free sharing of technological information has existed long before computers existed. There is open source pertaining to businesses and there is open source pertaining to computers, software, and technology. In the early years of automobile development, a group of capital monopolists owned the rights to a 2 cycle gasoline engine patent originally filed by George B. Selden. By controlling this patent, they were able to monopolize the industry and force car manufacturers to adhere to their demands, or risk a lawsuit. In 1911, independent automaker Henry Ford won a challenge to the Selden patent. The result was that the Selden patent became virtually worthless and a new association (which would eventually become the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association) was formed. The new association instituted a cross-licensing agreement among all US auto manufacturers: although each company would develop technology and file patents, these patents were shared openly and without the exchange of money between all the manufacturers. Up to the point where the US entered World War II, 92 Ford patents were being used freely by other manufacturers and were in turn making use of 515 patents from other companies, all without lawsuits or the exchange of any money.

Very similar to open standards, researchers with access to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) used a process called Request for Comments to develop telecommunication network protocols. Characterized by contemporary open source work, this 1960s' collaborative process led to the birth of the Internet in 1969. There are earlier instances of open source and free software such as IBM's source releases of its operating systems and other programs in the 1950s, 60s, and the SHARE user group that formed to facilitate the exchange of software. Open source on the internet began when the internet was just a message board and progressed to more advanced presentation and sharing forms like a website. There are now many websites, organizations, and businesses who promote open source sharing of everything from computer code to mechanics of improving a product, technique, or medical advancement.

The decision by some people in the free software movement to use the label “open source” came out of a strategy session held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator. The group of individuals at the session included Christine Peterson who suggested “open source”, Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, Michael Tiemann and Eric S. Raymond. Over the next week Raymond and others worked on spreading the word. Linus Torvalds gave an all-important imprimatur the following day. Phil Hughes offered a pulpit in Linux Journal. Richard Stallman flirted with adopting the term, then changed his mind. They used the opportunity before the release of Navigator's source code to free themselves of the ideological and confrontational connotations of the term free software. Netscape licensed and released its code as open source under the Netscape Public License and subsequently under the Mozilla Public License.

The term was given a big boost at an event organized in April 1998 by technology publisher Tim O'Reilly. Originally titled the “Freeware Summit” and later known as the “Open Source Summit”, the event brought together the leaders of many of the most important free and open source projects, including Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Eric Allman, Guido van Rossum, Michael Tiemann, Paul Vixie, Jamie Zawinski of Netscape, and Eric Raymond. At that meeting, the confusion caused by the name free software was brought up. Tiemann argued for “sourceware” as a new term, while Raymond argued for “open source.” The assembled developers took a vote, and the winner was announced at a press conference that evening. Five days later, Raymond made the first public call to the free software community to adopt the new term. The Open Source Initiative was formed shortly thereafter.

Starting in the early 2000s, a number of companies began to publish a portion of their source code to claim they were open source, while keeping key parts closed. This led to the development of the now widely used terms free open source software and commercial open source software to distinguish between truly open and hybrid forms of open source.

Open Source Softwares

Software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. Open source code evolves through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as very large companies.Some examples of open-source software products are:
■Apache - HTTP web server
■Tomcat web server - web container
■Drupal — content management system
■Eclipse - software framework for "rich-client applications"
■FreeBSD - operating system derived from Unix
■GNU Project - "a sufficient body of free software."
■Joomla — content management system
■Linux - operating system based on Unix
■Mediawiki — wiki server software, the software that runs Wikipedia
■MongoDB - document-oriented, non-relational database
■Moodle - course management system
■Mozilla Firefox - web browser
■Mozilla Thunderbird - e-mail client
■OpenOffice.org — office suite
■OpenSolaris - Unix Operating System from Sun Microsystems
■osCommerce - ecommerce
■PeaZip - File archiver
■Stockfish — chess engine series, considered to be one of the strongest chess programs of the world
■Symbian - real time operating system
■WordPress - content management system - blog software
■7-Zip - File archiver

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.  ~Richard P. Feynman