I’ve been thinking about open source lately. I’ve always been a big proponent of it, but now with Google, Facebook, Automattic and others releasing their software, hardware, and other stuff into the open source community, it’s got me thinking. Why wouldn’t you want to open source your software and hardware?
First off what is open source:
In production and development, open source as a development model promotes universal access via a free license to a product’s design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint, including subsequent improvements to it by anyone. Before the phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of other terms. 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. The open-source software movement arose to clarify the environment that the new copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues created. (source: Wikipedia)
Now, don’t write me off as naive, I do understand why some companies want to keep their software code and hardware specs a guarded secret. But often keeping stuff away from prying eyes casts questions and doubts about your product (ie. security, access, etc.). Open source allows people to not only vet what you’re putting out there, but also help you fix it and improve upon it.
WordPress is best known for being open source. Being open source has enabled WordPress to grow and in the end power close to 25% of the Websites on the Internet. Developers make plugins for the CMS, designers make themes, hackers find bugs, and users get a great product as a result.
Wikipedia, Drupal, Joomla, and so much more are also open source and because of it they are great platforms to build and grow on.
Google open sourcing its new AMP protocol from its inception will help the Web become faster. Their open sourcing of their building tool Bazel will allow people to build more effective applications and interoperate them with other open source tools to build something completely different and maybe make a product that scratches another need.
Facebook has open sourced its hardware infrastructure, this will allow others to build on top of an already tested and proven set of hardware.
Books have even been open sourced. True to their spirit of open source, the community behind WordPress released a book and released it on Github.
So, to conclude, I understand why some companies keep their software, hardware and other things under lock and key. But do I think that’s a good thing to do? No. Open it up and let the community build upon it and let’s make awesome stuff.
Do you use open source software? What do you like most about using it? Have you tried open source hardware? Thoughts?
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