Thursday, June 18, 2009

How open source is beating the status quo

One of the biggest problems with open source is understanding what it means out in the real world. I'm not talking about understanding the actual technology. I'm talking about the impact of open source, how it is actually useful. What's clear to me is that open source is not an end in itself. Open source is an enabler. It's a catalyst. It allows other things to happen. It's the fulcrum upon which can be rested the lever that will move the world. But it isn't the lever itself.

Open source cannot change the status quo on its own. This has become entirely clear now, after 10 years of hype leading to effectively the exact same situation as when we started. No, open source needs to be combined with something else, and that's usually a technology. That technology can be the Web, in the case of Mozilla, or a hardware platform, in the case of the recent netbook revolution.

Below I look at some of the biggest challenges to the current computing status quo. In each case, open source is playing a part. It's only now, around 10 years after the open-source revolution was supposed to have begun, that we're actually seeing things really begin to happen.

In the examples below, it isn't the case that people make a choice to use open source. It's more the case that open source is the only choice because only open source offers what's needed.

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