Open source is defined as: “denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified”.
When I think of open source the first thing that comes to mind for me is always Mozilla, the creators behind the once most popular web browser FireFox. For years it dominated the web as the most popular, fast and reliable web browser. One year after release only 7.2% of people on the web used FireFox with Internet Explorer holding 84.9% of the users. Fast forward 7 years to 2009 and there was 46.4% of internet users choosing FireFox as their web browser of choice with Internet Explorer in second with 37.2%. Yes, Firefox the FREE open source browser was used by more people than the browser that comes PRELOADED on your computer! Three years later in 2012 and Google Chrome held 46.3% and Firefox dropped to 31.1%. And today only 13.6% of people use Firefox and 75.7% use Google Chrome. To see more about this trend. Firefox was the first to introduce on a wide scale the ability to install custom browser plugins from a store, browser themes and to directly integrate Google as it’s default search engine. Firefox changed the way we browsed the web forever. And although it might not be the reigning browser of choice anymore many of the everyday features you use and any web browser were first brought to life in Firefox. This browser was developed by people from all across the globe. And they lost to Chrome for many reasons, but one was a rather unfair advantage. Google was the default search engine in Firefox and when Google released Chrome, in order to attract new users it needed a plan. What better way than to advertise is on the world’s most popular search engine, their own Google homepage! If Google detected someone using anything other than Chrome they would be greeted with a message saying they can “Upgrade their internet experience with Google Chrome!” This message still presents itself to this day. Firefox and it’s parent Mozilla are one of many open source projects that redefined its respective domain.
Next up, Ubuntu. Everyone is familiar with the name: “Linux”. But for years Linux was a very broad term that could mean any number of “distros” (distributions/iterations) of Linux. The majority of people aren’t familiar with linux and found it intimidating to use. Now, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro and it redefined Linux for your home as we know it. Linux has always been known to force command line on users and over complicate things for your average sit at home computer user. It’s also home to one of the largest and most documented linux communities. They also offer amazing click to install tools similarly to those found in Windows making the installation of new software easier than any other linux distro. But while offering all of these simplistic features, it doesn’t over simplify things by handicapping YOU, the user and ADMINISTRATOR of the computer. A concept that Windows is beginning to forget lately and will hurt them if linux support continues to grow. Ubuntu redefined Linux for the home and caused many new Linux for the home distros like LinuxMint and Elementary OS (my personal favourite!).
Some quick others!
Apache, the most popular web server in the world is also open source! Hosting nearly half of the websites on the globe coming in at approximately 112 MILLION! Also, MySQL, the most popular database is open source!
The concept of open source is incredible, it opens the door to minds from all over to work together and create these unbelievably incredible things! Which in turn creates other projects that attempt to improve upon the already great. But not everyone uses open source because it’s “great”. Some people simply use it for security or ease of mind and although this segment of users might be a small niche it’s existent nonetheless. Each and everyday everything you do on the web is being logged and tracked to better improve upon the way you’re presented with content. Some people don’t appreciate this and prefer privacy and with open source you know exactly what’s going on under the hood because the source code is available for all to see. Let’s take for example the newest iteration of Windows, Windows 10. It introduced a whole new pile of telemetry and statistics, data and usage mining/gathering within the OS itself. To this day no one knows exactly what data is being recorded other than what server it’s being sent to. But Ubuntu on the other hand doesn’t track your data and it’s known not to because as previously stated the code is visible for all to read. But this extends beyond security of “corporate espionage” and goes into bugs and exploits too. When you’re working with a set team of developers, they’re the only ones who can look under the hood for flaws. As quoted here from an article I will link below: “All it means is that those products are closed from public view, so no one outside the companies that own them has the faintest clue how many bugs they contain. And there’s no way the limited set of developers and testers within those companies can test their products as well as the worldwide community constantly scrutinizing FOSS can”.
There’s many ways to look at open source and many ways to say how it’s impacted modern software. But I often look at open source in many cases as the home of innovation and the result of working together on a large scale. It sets new limits and new standards. And In many cases this fantastic product that set the new standards for paid software… Is free!!! I personally feel that open source is required in the world of development to keep innovation thriving. Why do I say this? Because this allows new ideas to come from more than just the closed doors of a company. It gives you reach to many people and ideas you would’ve otherwise never had.
Another fine example: The Android Open Source Project, because the android OS is open source it’s allowed for so much innovation and customization in the Android community! It also allows for devices manufacturers to all support the same apps but customize the look and feel of a phone to make it unique to them! Over the years tons of different android ROMS and mods have been released for free by developers from across the globe! The once most popular and loved custom Android ROM CyanogenMod was started here in Cape Breton! It offer more customization than any other ROM available and came preloaded with ROOT granting you SuperUser permissions within android itself! In 2014 a Chinese startup called OnePlus launched a new phone called the OnePlus One and this phone was the first phone to come running CyanogenMod as it’s factory ROM. OnePlus redefined the smartphone world with it’s flagship killer all while powering it with a ROM that set the standards for the custom Android experience!
All of this in a nutshell?
Open source is absolutely incredible and is home to some of the greatest innovations in software on earth!
Worth checking out: