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The Importance of the Open Source Ecosystem

 

I am seeing an alarming trend in the world of Open Source software — the move to privatize platforms.  Globally, everyone should be concerned about this trend.

 

For the young IT readers, a little background:  Prior to the world of Open Source, a loose network of developers who wrote “shareware” existed.  Shareware was available for anyone to use; you simply logged into a bulletin board (anyone remember CompuServe?) and downloaded the software.  Most shareware software existed as a native executable and was processor- and operating-system-specific (e.g., debug utility for MS-DOS).  These tools were simply that, tools for a specific problem on a specific platform.  They were not complete solutions. 

 

With the explosion of the personal computer in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, large commercial software companies started a move to change intellectual property laws in order to lock in markets and put up barriers to entry for newcomers to a particular market.  The net effect would be fewer choices that were very expensive.

 

The objective of “software” from the first days of computing was to allow for the customization of functionality on hardware. Therefore, “hardware” was fixed, and “software” was malleable.  Anytime a move is made to make software “exclusive” the results end up limiting innovation, independence, income, and instruction.  Imagine a world where the spell checker was owned by one company and everyone had to license it for their application.  Open standards always provide better products because they invite competition.

 

This is the introduction to a four-part series focused on the Innovation, Independence, Income, and Instruction (Education doesn’t start with an “I”) of Open Source software.  This is not a hit piece on commercial software.  I am a pure capitalist at heart and you will understand how Open Source is the epitome of a free market.  By the way, “free market” does not mean that you get things for free financially; it simply means the exchange of goods and services is free to occur.

 

Stay tuned… Innovation of Open Source Software

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