Is Open Source Out to Take Over the World?
A more accurate question, though, might be: Is Open Source Out to Stop the World Takeover?
“Open source” refers to developmental practices, primarily in software but some hardware, that give access to end products’ source materials, usually the source code. This access allows coexisting use of various methods in production, whereas commercial software tends to be restrictive and secretive.
Basically, open-source software is free and not only does it let you keep, modify and redistribute it at will, it encourages you to do so. Commercial or proprietary software isn’t free, but you can keep it. Chances are, though, it will be obsolete in a few years.
Open-source experts are quick to point out that their interests and mission is based on a greater goods and needs for humanity.
“The thing about open source is, most of us are not out to undermine proprietary software, bring it to its knees and make sure nobody ever uses anything but open software,” said Danese Cooper, Intel senior director of open-source strategy. “The open-source people want to see the proprietarycommunity forced to a level playing field, see standards adopted so that developers can follow what’s going on and write meaningful add-ons to existing software.”
Cooper is also the secretary and treasurer of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) board of directors and is a self-described “open-source diva.”
The benefits of open-source software to the regular computer user are best described through examples. One of the most obvious is OpenOffice.org, a free office suite comparable to Microsoft’s.
Cooper said she sees it as another example of how open-source software helps everyone and is not just free, knockoff software.
“So, open source even helps people who don’t use the software by them applying pressure on a competitor, which previously had no competitor, to fix the problems with the software they were shipping,” she said. “Better software, easily tried at no risk/cost, creates market pressure to force the dominate player to be more responsive.”
Open source arguably has made a bigger impact overseas, where software is still largely pirated because of high prices. An open-source program solves the cost problem but also helps to break the language barrier.
“Young college students in Romania localized OpenOffice into Romanian in three days,” Cooper said. “It was the first time the Romanian people had software that didn’t require that they also learn a foreign language.”
Open-source software offers a third option for anyone in the world to have access to programs without breaking the bank or breaking the law, and as a result, open-source software might end up making a difference.
“We recognize, in open source, everyone is motivated by self-gain, so we let people do things that benefit themselves and the rest of the world at the same time,” Cooper said.