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20 Years Later, Has Open Source Changed the World? (infoworld.com) 220

"Most code remains closed and proprietary, even though open source now dominates enterprise platforms," notes Matt Asay, former COO at Canonical (and an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative). "How can that be?" he asks, in an essay noting it's been almost 20 years since the launch of the Open Source Initiative, arguing that so far open source "hasn't changed the world as promised." [T]he reason most software remains locked up within the four walls of enterprise firewalls is that it's too costly with too small of an ROI to justify open-sourcing it. At least, that's the perception. Such a perception is impossible to break without walking the open source path, which companies are unwilling to walk without upfront proof. See the problem? This chicken-and-egg conundrum is starting to resolve itself, thanks to the forward-looking efforts of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other web giants that are demonstrating the value of open-sourcing code.

Although it's unlikely that a State Farm or Chevron will ever participate in the same way as a Microsoft, we are starting to see companies like Bloomberg and Capital One get involved in open source in ways they never would have considered back when the term "open source" was coined in 1997, much less in 2007. It's a start. Let's also not forget that although we have seen companies use more open source code over the past 20 years, the biggest win for open source since its inception is how it has changed the narrative of how innovation happens in software. We're starting to believe, and for good reason, that the best, most innovative software is open source.

The article strikes a hopeful note. "We're now comfortable with the idea that software can, and maybe should, be open source without the world ending. The actual opening of that source, however, is something to tackle in the next 20 years.
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20 Years Later, Has Open Source Changed the World?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2018 @08:48PM (#55928955)

    public domain.

    • public domain (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2018 @10:19PM (#55929229)

      Public domain was better because you didn't need to be an armchair lawyer to understand the license you were using.

      I have published software under the GPL in the past, but these days, I don't even bother with licenses anymore. I just give away the source code and anyone can do whatever they want with it.

      There are too many open source licenses to choose from, and it causes license fatigue. I lost the ability to care about open source long ago.

      • Release to the public domain still needs a licence, to say that this is what you are doing. "Giving away the source code" by sticking it on the web means it is closed. So, you cannot get away without a licence.

        Even if you do have a licence saying "this is public domain", you still have an issue which is public domain has quite different meanings in different countries.

    • There's this little thing known as genome assembly and protein structure prediction. I'd like to suggest that this has changed the world. And how did it happen? federations of people sharing their software improvements openly.

  • 1997???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Sunday January 14, 2018 @08:51PM (#55928971) Journal
    I'm pretty sure I was hearing the term in the late 1980's, especially in regards to unix software, and almost certainly by the time I first heard of Linux in '92.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm pretty sure I was hearing the term in the late 1980's

      I'm pretty sure you are wrong. In the 1980s the term used was "Free Software".

      "Open source" was a term used by the intelligence community to refer to information gathered from public sources, such as newspapers. But it was not regularly used as a synonym for Free Software until the late 1990s.

      • You are wrong.
        Free software was always related to GNU.
        Open Source were all other 'open/free' software you could download.
        I use the term since 1988/1989 and was not even aware that most software *I* called 'open source' is/was in fact 'free software' from the gnu project.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Who cares about where open source started or M$ using PR=B$ people to distort it to open sores, a cancer, preferred by organised crime, communist, a virus (lest we forget their true nature). Where is it going and the obvious place is in open coding standards to ensure interoperability something which M$ tried to kill in the most corrupt, self serving and destructive manner imaginable, the active corruption of international standards bodies.

          What is open source software really about in the future, about crea

      • I was a bit young in the 80s to care about licenses, but if you'd told me about "free software" I would have assumed it was synonymous with "Cracked by the Nibbler" which is where most of my software came from.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The term "open source" was coined by Christine Peterson in 1998, when Netscape opened up its browser's source code.

        Before that, RMS coined "free software" in the early 80s. However, a lot of software was made available as source code but was not free in the sense that the licence had restrictions or didn't enforce freedom like the GPL does. Thus the term "open source" was created.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2018 @08:55PM (#55928989)

    The internet was built on open source. In 1997 it was more curiosity or nerdy thing. By 2017 the internet is generating untold sums of money and is utterly essential to the economy. I wish I felt the same excitement for this technology as I did back in 1997.

    • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @10:08PM (#55929203)

      The internet was built on open source. In 1997 it was more curiosity or nerdy thing. By 2017 the internet is generating untold sums of money and is utterly essential to the economy. I wish I felt the same excitement for this technology as I did back in 1997.

      By 1997 pretty much every company of any size had a presence on the internet. Amazon.com had already been around for a few years by then - selling books online, of all things. The dotcom boom was well underway. Remember Webvan? That was 1996. I mean, sure, a lot of those those local small company websites were loaded down with blink tags in 1997, but still.... It isn't like 1997 internet was only for nerds.

      • In 1987, most companies shared software for their hardware within a user group - and it was not much use to anyone not using the hardware.

        The Pascal compiler available on DECUS was definitely ported to other hardware, as was a bunch of the other stuff there - and I am sure some other programs began on Data General and moved to DEC.

        In fact, if you got software from your hardware supplier, you normally could get the source if you wanted, and probably wanted to if you had people capable of fixing the bugs

      • In 1997 I worked for a company that had a specific, dedicated machine where we could access "the internet". We had nothing at our desks - not internet, nor email. We were connected to the backbone using an ISDN line, and we didn't have a website. There was some talk at that time of making software to let our customers sell stuff across the internet. I left soon after, so I don't know if anything ever came of it.

        Every company on the internet? Certainly not at that time. Neither us, nor our ~1500 customers ha

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          You checked every single one? On December 31st? Or do you just make shit up to sound like an ass?

          • You checked every single one? On December 31st? Or do you just make shit up to sound like an ass?

            They didn't have internet. They didn't have email. They had phone lines and fax systems, and that's how they did their business. The internet was slow, cumbersome, expensive, unreliable, and offered no added value in their eyes.

            Also, I'm not quite sure how you went from me making a general statement about the state of the business landscape in 1997, a statement which I stand by BTW, to somehow implying that is some kind of logical statement that can be falsified if even a single customer had a single static

        • My phrase "of any size" was meant to convey "sizable", not "of all sizes". Conversationally that would have been apparent, but in a short post I see the ambiguity.

          1500 customers is pretty tiny. There were probably lots of plumbers and electricians without web pages too.

          But if you had a retail business with multiple outlets, you were likely on the web - at least as an advertisement. Online retail was still in its early stages.

          We had a small financial services firm, just starting up in 1997. We took half

          • 1500 customers is pretty tiny.

            Our 1500 customers were all businesses, with a combined turnover in the couple of billion euro range.

            • Amazing how quickly that changed.

              I was involved in building B2B systems at that time as well. Dealing with older big institutions like banks was really difficult. They had an antiquated, decades old method for moving information around, and were very slow to adapt to the new tools available. Everyone had their own proprietary format for data, even if it was reasonably close to the industry standard. So custom parsers had to be written for every type of data at every institution. XML came to that indust

      • by Jack9 ( 11421 )

        > By 1997 pretty much every company of any size had a presence on the internet.

        1997 was a very primitive time. In 1997, Amazon didn't even have UUIDs for books (beyond ISBNs) which was problematic for periodicals/resold/foreign inventory that didn't have them. By 2001, I had stopped encountering jobs to set up websites for existing companies in southern California. Maybe it would be more accurate to pin that assertion a few years beyond 1997.

    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @10:18PM (#55929221)

      The internet would have come along just fine over the last 20 years if it were running on IIS and .NET.

      Open source performs best on well established designs. Web hosting, databases, file systems etc are all well understood problems. There isn't a lot of room for innovation in any of these areas so it's perfect for Open Source where tiny incremental changes and maintenance is all you really need. Has Apache substantially changed since 1997? I would argue no and that's fine. IIS hasn't really changed since 1997 either so why spend money on it?

      Where closed source seems to shine though is through projects with leadership and vision. It's easy to implement a new db engine on a broadly understood concept like a database. A concept taught in every CS101 class. It's a lot harder to stay organized and communicate when you're treading new ground and creating things that only 5 people on earth really understand.

      The hard future I see for open source is entering the areas that only serve a handful of people. Niche markets are hard for open source because if there are only 1,000 customers in the world you won't find very many volunteers among those 1,000. And you need a way to ensure one of those 1,000 customers doesn't pay for all of the dev work and then get driven out of business by competitors using the tool for free and charging less. We've stopped helping some closed source products that we license where we've given a lot of time and testing to the company and then not been given a discount on licensing prices when maintenance comes up.

      I feel like there is space for a new quasi-open license where you have to pay for a license, but substantial commits give you a discount. That way companies with no interest in contributing can pay cash and companies with more interest in contributing can pay in code. You could even then have developers who only contribute in code and get paid out in cash in lieu of a license at all. That I feel is the model that could expand open source beyond its current use: Bounty Source software.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        The internet would have come along just fine over the last 20 years if it were running on IIS and .NET.

        20 years (or a bit more) ago, I was working in the thick of moving 'enterprise' systems onto this new thing called the web. Built with NCSA httpd and Mosaic. And working in a Seattle area company, we had Microsoft people visiting our operation, pleading with us to use their solutions instead of open protocols and tools. Generally, we just told them (nicely) to f*ck off. In fact, IIs and .NET were produced as (closed) alternatives to HTTP and most of the RFC documented protocols. Had they succeeded in pushin

        • That reminds me about a story at a mayour web mail and now internet company in Germany.
          M$ approached them every month to send sales men to show the M$ solutions to them.
          After years of pestering management desided a group of 'selected developers' should meet those salesmen and evaluate the technology.
          Bottom line it was about M$ selling them an exchange server infrastructure.
          The 'selected dev team' obviously planned to let them run ontoma wall. Anyway, so they had that perfect planned day, with 4 sessiosns of

          • by lokedhs ( 672255 )
            I have a similar story. One of our major customers were hosting their entire email infrastructure on a single Sun server (it wasn't even a particularly powerful one, it was a 4 CPU machine if I remember correctly).

            They then decided to hire a new IT manager from Microsoft and the first thing he did was to decide to move it all to MS Exchange. They needed 50 machines to handle the same load. With all machined having a hot spare, they ended up with 100 machines to replace one.

            • by PPH ( 736903 )

              Oh yeah? We ran an enterprise critical web app on two Sun 'pizza boxes' that we had obtained as surplus. Running Apache (started with NCSA, but that was about end of life by the time we came along). Our IT management had already drank the Microsoft Kool-Aide. We could have gotten $250,000 budget for a new Compaq NT server. Want to run Unix? Go dig through the scrap pile behind the building. The Windows folks actually tried porting our app to a high end NT server. And it collapsed miserably. The pizza boxes

          • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

            I've dealt with many MS people over the years. None of them would have made such a ridiculous claim. I'm guessing you make shit up because you have an irrational hatred for MS.

        • IIs and .NET were produced as (closed) alternatives to HTTP

          Wut? IIS was HTTP an HTTP server in 1996.

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          Has IIS ever supported a non-IETF-defined protocol? I assume you are a bigoted shit-face, and you should be forced to support IIS for the next 300 years, only because you seem to have an irrational hatred for it.

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            only because you seem to have an irrational hatred for it.

            Which really started when I administrated several *NIX systems and watched our Intranet web logs as the Code Red worm [wikipedia.org] practically collapsed Boeing's IT infrastructure. Us UNIX admins would scrape the logs for IP addresses of infected machines probing around and forward them to our computing security folks. See schadenfreude [wikipedia.org].

      • Web sites can run on IIS and .NET, yes. However, the services we now take for granted seems unlikely to have been started, or would have been difficult and expensive to build. Google's, Amazon's and other hosting providers running millions of machines on Microsoft licenses. They would have been dead in the water. Android would probably not have been the same as a propitiatory OS. See Palm, Symbian, etc.

        Then there's all the hobby projects, maker communities, Github, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and so on. It woul

        • Amazon's and other hosting providers running millions of machines on Microsoft licenses. They would have been dead in the water.

          Azure did fine at largely replicating the capabilities on Windows. Unix predates Windows and we still would have had commercial Unix OSes in a world without Open Source. Who knows, maybe NEXT would actually been released ;).

          But I'm not confident that without Github the world would be substantially different if we were using Perforce for instance. Much of what Github does is focused on enabling open source workflows. So in an alternate universe without open source, the advantages of a distributed r

          • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

            MS doesn't have to pay itself license fees. (I have no idea what accounting games go on, but no real money leaves MS.) And Azure is relatively new in the game.

      • The internet would have come along just fine over the last 20 years if it were running on IIS and .NET.

        It was. IIS and ActiveX had half the market share of Apache in 1997. But fast forward to 2007 and it was getting tight, 40% vs 50%, and in 2007 that was a HUGE amount of websites.

        Even now with the millions of websites out there it's at 20%, although ActiveX is hopefully rotting in a special kind of hell by now.

      • that only 5 people can understand it is usually being done at a University because it's usually so far from being turned into a product that nobody'll fund it for cash. The exception is High Frequency Trading and military applications (think missile guidance systems); both of which rely on secrecy (and in HFT's case a good 'ole boys network).

        Where closed source rules is in boredom. It's hard to get folks to write office software because it's not a very interesting problem to a software dev and unlike th
  • by koavf ( 1099649 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @08:57PM (#55928999)
    Look at several domains of computers: free software makes up the vast majority of operating systems for servers, mainframes, and smartphones. Users are interacting with these constantly without even knowing if they are using free software and in that sense, it is so meaningful due to how ubiquitous it is. I think the primary *failure* here is in the moral and legal dimension where users don't necessarily prioritize their rights. I would sincerely hope that users will prioritize free software because it is the right thing to do, in addition to being more secure or cheaper.
    • free software makes up the vast majority of operating systems for servers, mainframes, and smartphones

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but by "the vast majority of operating systems for [...] smartphones" I assume you're referring to devices that run Android. In that case, what's larger on an Android system image: AOSP (Linux and free components of Android userland) or GMS (Google Play Store/Services and other bundled Gapps)?

      I think the primary *failure* here is in the moral and legal dimension where users don't necessarily prioritize their rights.

      And the unfortunate result of this is that economies of scale associated with support make laptops made for Windows* cheaper than laptops made for GNU/Linux.

      * A device is "made for" an operatin

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        In that case, what's larger on an Android system image: AOSP (Linux and free components of Android userland) or GMS (Google Play Store/Services and other bundled Gapps)?

        Depends if you include China. Since most Google stuff is blocked in China, the GMS size is zero. There are over a billion active mobile devices in China, 80% of them running Android.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Depends if you include China.

          And whether it's practical to define the relevant market [wikipedia.org] to include China in turn depends on the added cost for app developers outside China to target users in China. This includes at least translation, distribution, and promotion. Otherwise, you have two disjoint markets: "Android outside China" and "Android in China".

    • I think the primary *failure* here is in the moral and legal dimension where users don't necessarily prioritize their rights. I would sincerely hope that users will prioritize free software because it is the right thing to do, in addition to being more secure or cheaper.

      What you describe as a failure is not necessarily a failure with regards to the fact that most software is still closed source.

      It is definitely a problem that users are wiling to give up their freedoms when it comes to software. The same is true in politics as well. Look at how people will vote in representatives that support higher taxes (giving up economic freedom), more regulation (giving up various different types of freedoms), corporatism (allowing commercial entities to trample their freedoms), the s

    • Look at several domains of computers: free software makes up the vast majority of operating systems for servers, mainframes, and smartphones.

      I think you'll find those are all made up of a combination of free and non-free software. A lot (probably the majority) of embedded systems use Linux too but they also interact with a whole bunch of non-free software and services to provide functionality to users.

      • by koavf ( 1099649 )
        Compared to 20 years ago, when it was essentially 100% proprietary software. So, yes, that is a huge improvement.
  • Android Anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bjwest ( 14070 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @09:13PM (#55929043)
    Seeing as how the most widely used mobile platform is built on Open Source and has had a major affect on the way the world communicates, I'd have to say yes, Open Source has dramatically changed the world even though it's an underlying aspect and most people don't even realise it.
    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Android is just an alternative to iOS and Windows Phone. There's nothing revolutionary about it.
      • For the majority of the poor people of the world, their first smartphone was, is, or will be an Android phone - a device that can allow a child in the most remote village in India to look up whatever topics strikes their curiosity, including topics that no one they have contact with knows anything about. In terms of functionality, Android may be just another smartphone OS, but in terms of economics and making that kind of power accessible to the poor, I'd argue that that is absolutely revolutionary.
        • by DogDude ( 805747 )
          Android is just a knockoff. Somebody would've created a cheap alternative to the iPhone. Microsoft did. I'm sure other companies would have too. I don't consider a cheap knockoff revolutionary.
          • by bjwest ( 14070 )

            Android is just a knockoff. Somebody would've created a cheap alternative to the iPhone. Microsoft did. I'm sure other companies would have too. I don't consider a cheap knockoff revolutionary.

            Doesn't really matter, does it? The question was "20 Years Later, Has Open Source Changed the World?". He didn't ask for speculation on whether or not if the Open Source application hadn't been created and an alternative filled the void disqualifying it from consideration. And a cheap knockoff that changed the world is still a world changing application. Do you really think Apple and/or Microsoft would be in as many places as cheaply as Android, had Android not been developed? Not to mention that there

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      Both of the top-two mobile OSes are based on open source, though iOS less-so.

  • Without a doubt! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @09:40PM (#55929115)
    As a certifiable Old Fart(TM), I remember all too well the bizarre days of the UNIX wars. AIX had a great admin tool called SMIT; SCO had a great channel for feeding the SMBs that developed the cool applications to other SMBs; Solaris ruled telecom and other HA realms; etc. There was NO "UNIX API" as MS had, hence their subsequent success. And no one shared a god-damned thing. Device drivers, admin tools - you name it. Each KNEW that their way would bring consolidation, failing to recognize the fundamental flaw built-in to that thought. Enter GNU/Linux. Yes, I put them together for a reason - neither could exist without the other. I made this point to the first Intel Linux Conference at the mothership and glad to see the prophecy fulfilled. The world is a much, much better place because of GNU/Linux!
  • Boost, openSSL, GDAL, POCO, the list goes on
    tools of the trade
    know them, use them, or your carrier is toast.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @09:43PM (#55929131)

    I've been programming professionally now for over three decades...

    A while ago, if you were working on projects, and you wanted to do something complex - you were buying an external library to make that happen. UI forms, even data storage collections!

    Nowadays even if you are working on a closed system, you are using a LOT of open parts and libraries to help make things happen. Most people are using Apache instead of proprietary web servers. Most people are using a multitude of open source libraries that means when you switch jobs your expertise is no longer fully invalidated, because you can use some of the same libraries as you move around. Many people are browsing using WebKit, way more than IE...

    Sure there are a lot of closed systems around still but they operate in a world that is dominated now by more open protocols, open source tools, and libraries and so on. No longer is it considered risky to go with open source when LAMP now is considered the conservative choice.

    Even though software development is still a pain for all sorts of reasons, it's still never been better and easier than it is now and you can build things today that just were not possible to pull off 20 years ago. Open source will continue to advance as the idea has proven to be gene4rally solid and reliable, and will only continue to spread further... eventually we may reach a plateau beyond which the remaining software will generally be closed for a variety of reasons, but I don't think we are there yet.

    • Same here. Our projects still have closed bits, but so much more of the infrastructure is open compared to 20 years ago. I can get stuff done faster, and more reliably with "unsupported" open libraries as compared to the "supported" closed equivalents, and when I've had the opportunity to compare the two head to head, the closed ones tend to have more, bigger bugs that take longer to get fixed - precisely because they're closed. We had a bug in an open library, made a patch for it ourselves in a couple o

    • I've been programming professionally now for over three decades...

      Same here.

      And these days, I work on the world's most widely-used operating system -- and it's open source, at least in the form that it's delivered to companies that make devices that run it. That's a HUGE change from 20 years ago, when no OS with non-trivial market share was open source.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Ditto. Open source has changed a lot.

      Back in the old days, if you wanted to "write code" you either were stuck with the BASIC your PC came with, or shelled out hundreds of dollars for a compiler, assembler, and linker toolset. These days, every platform has freely available tools. Granted, some tools require certain platforms, but for the most part it only costs a small download. This is in no part to the easily available nature of competent tools like GCC and the like, ported to every platform around. Gra

      • This a thousand times. I started writing code when I got my first TRS-80 in high school (yes I'm old). I was a Microsoft fan until the mid '90s, when they started charging for MSDN subscriptions. That was the final straw. I dumped Windows for Linux and NetBIOS for TCP/IP and never looked back. Most of the folks on this thread simply don't get it--Open Source is not about the end-user, it's all about the *developer* and his or her ability to get work done. Particularly when that work is creating new ways of

  • Yes and no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @10:02PM (#55929189) Homepage

    Before quick, always-on Internet connections were available most software had to live locally, so even though it was closed source you had the entire blob. Today, more and more of the client functionality is going open source - but the essential bits have all gone online as web applications, SaaS, multiplayer/matchmaking services and so on. Google is giving away Android and Chromium (with proprietary codecs = Chrome) so you'll use Google's services. Microsoft is open sourcing things so you'll use Azure. Amazon is open sourcing things so you'll use AWS and so on. Companies that were just giving it away without some sort of plan to monetize it like Sun went under.

    And in this competition with "free" services, open source is struggling in many areas. Like for example LibreOffice vs Google Docs, Google got like 3 million paying G Suite businesses, 70 million educational users and lord knows how many others, I couldn't find a statistic. They're taking on the battle of Office/Exchange open source has worked on for decades and not really gotten anywhere. Services like Alexa and Siri you couldn't really do as a local application anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if the Microsoft market falls and the desktop goes "open source" like Android. But it's not really like how RMS envisioned it...

  • Itâ(TM)s also true that the population of developers with interest and aptitude in a given piece of software will shrink the higher up the stack you go.

    Really? More people have aptitude for writing bare-metal firmware than some cloud application? I doubt it, not so much due to "difficulty", but due to the fact that there are far more jobs at lofty levels of abstraction where you can do useful work than there are down in the kernel/metal.

  • So software changed the world yay! But AI is just getting started. I am already alarmed, not of a potential "singularity", but by the effects of AI gone wrong. I'm not even talking SkyNet or even self-driving cars gone awry. I'm talking about the very silent bias (no pun intended) from these AI systems - of which there is no legal or professional quality standard. Companies deploying bad models that shape our future, either because they are used in government and carry the force of law, or they are used by

  • It's changed the way applications are written. It has put pressure on companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google to provide development tools and libraries free of charge.

    But thinking Open Source Software will/would/has changed the world?

    I don't think that's reasonable.

    • by lenski ( 96498 )

      The ubiquity of the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Linux on PCs (modern or ancient), IOT devices, the top 500 supercomputers, routers, etc.: All made possible by open source software.

      Schools in nations with emerging economies, research labs, DIY home makers all over the world build little (or big) process control and measurement boxes: These decisions are simplified by the presence of the invaluable library of open source software.

      The company I work for has 8 Odroids, 6 Raspberry Pis, about a dozen workstations, an

  • by dsgrntlxmply ( 610492 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @11:59PM (#55929457)

    Of what functional relevance is a 20 year anniversary celebration of a piece of marketing nomenclature? If you want an excuse to have a cocktail party to celebrate a two-word branding phrase that is lamented as failing to meet someone's ambition, go ahead.

    My realm is embedded systems: high reliability systems with 10-20 year designed service life, using a variety of CPU architectures, and evolving into very high complexity System On Chip designs. These systems would not be feasible across this timescale without a stabilized and evolving GPL'd tools base: gcc, binutils, and glibc, and Linux as a long-lived build platform.

    20 years might be accurate for "open source" as nomenclature. It is not accurate for the underlying phenomena. My choice of monument is a GNU Emacs 16.56 source tape dated 1985, at the point where RMS had replaced the disputed display code from Gosling Emacs.

    By around 1992, gcc had evolved to be usable (with a lot of configuration work for gcc and the runtime library) as a cross compiler. At the time I was working on a 68000 based embedded system, using a commercial cross compiler. The commercial product was expensive, slow, had some arcane proprietary extensions, and was abandoned by its supplier (their principal business was defense contracting) from further development, and even if I recall correctly, re-hosting beyond Sun 3.

    Gcc became the clear choice to carry the project forward. I put it into place, and it supported the product for the remaining 12 years or so of active development (some new capabilities, mostly keeping up with replacements for obsolete components).

    For the past 9 years much of my work has been centered around a body of proprietary software that supports certain high function System On Chip products from a vendor. This software has a history of at least 10 years, three major chip family architectures, and several steps of evolution within each architecture. It has grown to around 30M lines of C code. This is not bloatware with elaborate frameworks and libraries: these devices are sufficiently complex to require that much software to even construct a usable API (around 2800 pages for a sketchy API document, 5800 pages for a very incomplete chip hardware reference).

    None of this would be feasible without a long term stable cross-compiler (gcc) and a place to run it (Linux) on large bodies of code.

    Meanwhile in the un-free software world, a defense contractor friend pointed me to a recent U.S. Navy RFP for translation or other porting technology, seeking to make 1970s software written in a proprietary 1969 language (CMS-2), runnable on ordinary modern commercial machines. Today it runs on fossilized power-hungry refrigerator-sized Univac AN/UYK-somethings, built from components that went out of production years ago. Yes, our national defense depends upon stuff like this that has outlived essentially all of the original authors. The situation is similar for other long life cycle embedded products, in realms apart from weaponry.

    Note that IBM mainframe OS and compiler software were freely available until the early 1970s, when compilers and some other larger products went from a $25 tape copy charge for source, to expensive licenses and restricted source code access. Some of us learned quite a lot by reading e.g. the $25 Fortran H compiler source code.

    The history from my perspective, looks more like open (1970), closed (1972), opening back up (1985), usably open (1992), then "open source" as nomenclature (1997), then whatever you want to call today's maelstrom of bloated frameworks. GPL's origin in MIT / Symbolics / LMI controversies is a crucial component of the 1972-1985 evolution; that story must be mentioned, and is told elsewhere from disparate perspectives.

  • ... global warming, so "yes."

  • Has open source changed the world?

    Only a little, and it's because OSS has weak economic models.

    Idealism is good, but it needs support, including financial support. I basically feel like defying you to name any OSS economic model that has successfully competed against the greedy bastards. I don't have time now, or I'd start listing the failures.

    What I do have time to say is that I think OSS programmers should be paid fairly, and the money should be there BEFORE they start working on the project. I also think

  • While the vast majority of software in use today is proprietary, and much of it hidden behind servers that process the day-to-day business of many companies, much of it is built out of open source parts with open source tools. So in many ways, it's similar to what the idea of interchangeable parts did for manufacturing. Not only does it make it easier to build software today, it's actually feasible to do some maintenance and modification of software, even proprietary software, when it's based on these open

  • Open Source is changing the wold.
    A cloud without linux, docker, Java, and all those Apache projects is nearly unthinkable.
    However why would a bank or a travel agency or an airline open source their custom made software?

  • by eddeye ( 85134 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @03:23AM (#55930133)

    The decision is dictated by economics. Depends entirely on the software's purpose. Is it infrastructure or is it a source of competitive advantage?

    Common infrastructure code begs to be open source. Having 20 subtly incompatible flavors of Unix does the world no good - hence linux and bsd's success. Likewise Android gives all mobile phones a common base, taking away the burden of 20 vendors each creating a mobile OS poorly. Same thing with web browsers, few benefit anymore from making a closed proprietary platform. Better to share the burden.

    Software that gives companies a competitive advantage is completely different. Open sourcing that would be killing the golden goose. Yes companies can build their business model around services and support instead of proprietary code - but that decision is made very early on and hard to reverse later.

    You don't see Microsoft open sourcing the windows kernel and API, or Apple open sourcing their GUI libraries, or Google releasing their web search or data center code, or Amazon open sourcing their cloud server platform (it's built on open source but the custom parts stay proprietary). These things will stay closed because that's how these companies make money. Putting this code in competitor's hands makes no sense.

    As long as these companies derive competitive advantage from a piece of software, they'd be foolish to open source it. In other areas where the software is just a cost to the company, it makes sense to open source and share the burden.

  • by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @05:14AM (#55930377)

    Yes, Open Source has changed the world. And I'm going to argue that the most important thing that ever came out of the Open Source community was not Linux, nor GNU (the whole of it), but specifically GCC.

    GCC is what enables you to sit down and write software without having to pay a massive sum to a compiler vendor. GCC is what lets young people interested in programming experiment, learn, and ultimately become professionals. GCC is why we have the rest of GNU and the Linux kernel. GCC is the reason we have free versions of Visual Studio. And GCC is the reason C++ is the most important programming language today. In many ways, GCC changed the direction the software world has taken, allowing software to be written that would otherwise never have existed, and planting the seeds of the value of Open Source software in people's minds.

  • Yes, OSS has changed many a thing, but, no, it hasn't changed the world much. The world is still based on profit as the single exclusive control quantity for things being done, which stays the primary reason why the world is in its dire and further deteriorating state. And of course OSS is only able to flourish where it doesn't harm profit, and that's not going to change within an economic operating system that would break (and lose its capability to feed people, as limited as that capability ever was) with

  • "[T]he reason most software remains locked up within the four walls of enterprise firewalls is that it's too costly with too small of an ROI to justify open-sourcing it."

    Talk about damning with faint praise. A novel interpretation and the first I've ever heard of this analysis. The worlds top supercomputers all run on a variant of Linux and the makers still manage to make a profit. If I was paranoid I would suspect Matt Asay was put up to join the Open Source Initiative and subvert it from the inside.
  • Some companies will just take whatever code they find, use it without attribution and F.U. Admittedly, most of those companies aren't particularly successful, but it happens a lot, because it's easy. Those bad actors can just do it without worry, and that's pretty cheap.

    Unfortunately, many companies refuse to use open source AT ALL, because they believe it is infectious to ownership of their IP. Whether that is true or not of a particular license, there is a notable subset of the open source world who th

  • 1) Most proprietary apps are line of business apps that wouldn't work outside the company. Who wants the access database app code a local insurance company uses?
    2) Most proprietary crap quality and companies don't want it out there because it's embarrassing.
    3) Software as a service/cloud hosting is an end run around the GPL since the software is never distributed to users.

  • I see a fair number of academic and government codes now appearing in github. That puts them under source control and make files. Sometimes bug management and documentation. These are all items mandatory in the software industry and used to sparse in crappy student code. It can also be good publicity for code authors in future job hunts.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller