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20 Years of Open Source: The Evolution and Future of Free and Shareable Software

As it approaches its 20th year, take a step back in time with us as we briefly review the history of open source as an established industry.

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of open source. As we take a look back on the history of free and shareable software, we see that its evolution over the past two decades has produced many groundbreaking applications, paving the way for a free and open future.

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of GitHub for $7.5 billion provides firm validation of how valuable open source technology has become. When one of the most significantly proprietary/closed technology companies investing such a large amount of money in the number one world-leading open source collaboration tool ever developed, this signals to all the proprietary software vendors out there that times are changing and customers expect a different experience.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Richard Stallman, known as “the father of open source,” believed everyone deserved to freely and openly collaborate with others using software. In 1983, he introduced the GNU project, the first free operating system, and in 1985, he followed with the creation of the Free Software Foundation to further support the free software community.

In the late 1990s, mainstream recognition of Linux and the release of the Netscape browser source code increased interest and participation in openly sharing software. The “open source” label was created at a strategy session held on February 3rd, 1998 in Palo Alto, California, shortly after the Netscape source code was released. The strategy session grew from a realization that attention around the Netscape announcement created an opportunity to educate and advocate for the superiority of an open development process.

Since the 1990s, open source technologies have become essential for modern IT enterprises striving to gather, organize, and connect the dots between the vast amounts of spatial data at our fingertips. Open source enables these organizations to harness limitless scalability to understand and solve emerging business challenges.

Today, open source software is now at the core of our web browsers, operating systems, and many other aspects of our everyday life. According to a 2016 survey, 90 percent of enterprises claim open source improves efficiency, interoperability, and innovation.

One real-world dilemma being solved by open source software is transportation logistics. Whether it’s a municipal government establishing optimal bus and light rail routes, a hospital providing patients with the best and fastest route to their facilities at a particular moment, an oil company planning its pipeline locations, or a manufacturer shipping its products efficiently and cost-effectively, moving people people and things from point A to point B comes with enormous logistical challenges. In each case, analyzing complex location-based information is crucial. With proprietary geospatial software, subscriptions determine not only how many data sources can be considered, but also how much it will cost to determine optimal routing. In contrast, open source geospatial software allows organizations to leverage location-based data without incurring per-user, per-login, or per-CPU cycle costs. They are not penalized for increasing the number of users or doing as much analytics as they require to determine ideal routing. In the end, time, money – and even lives – can be saved with open source.

We will continue to see open source proliferate, as the rise of smartphones, the Internet of Things, and wearables has created an explosion of new data sources demanding flexible and affordable solutions for managing it all. Coupled with the open standards that facilitate open communication between them, these technologies will be the areas of focus for open source software in the future. Open source holds great promise and potential, as it allows for increased collaboration, the sharing of valuable data and access to key resources.

Here’s to another 20 years of progress and innovation made possible by open source!


Reprint from DZone
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