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Open Source: More Dominant Than You Think

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Though open source has taken over in enterprise networking over the last several years, open source isn’t a new concept. Open source software spun off of the related, but different, free software movement. Richard Stallman, a programmer at MIT’s artificial intelligence lab said he would create a free alternative to the AT&T-owned Unix operating system in 1983.

Stallman’s alternative was about more than giving away software, it was about giving users the freedom to use, modify, or share the software as they saw fit.

In September 1983, Stallman launched the GNU Project, in 1985 he started work on the GCC system, and by 1989 the project launched the first General Public License — this license gave users freedom but required them to share modified source code. This requirement to share modified source code is what ultimately allowed free software and open source to take off.

By the mid 90s, Linux gained popularity and free software was borderline mainstream. In 1997, the essay “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” was published. The essay compared and contrasted the development of Linux and GCC. The principles introduced in the essay would later be central to the DevOps movement. The essay also brought the concept of free software to a broader audience and swayed software executives into trying free software licenses.

The author of the essay, Eric S. Raymond was pivotal in coining the term open source and the creation of the Open Source Institute. After Netscape released Mozilla’s source code in 1998, Raymond and peers gathered to rebrand free software. Christine Peterson coined the term and Raymond and Bruce Perens started the institute.

Serving as the foundation of the internet in the 90s, open source became widely used in the 2000s. Open source serves as the foundation for Twitter and Kickstarter, in 2006 companies like eBay and Facebook started contributing to open source software data analyst Hadoop, and in 2008 Google moved open source to your pocket with the release of the Android phone.

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