What is Open Source?

untitled-2The most common definition of “open source” comes from Dictonary.com, which defines it as “a method and philosophy for software licensing and distribution designed to encourage use and improvement of software written by volunteers by ensuring that anyone can copy the source code and modify it freely.”

To some, however, open source is more than just a way to write and share software code; it is a way of life.  To live an “open source lifestyle” would mean to be transparent in everything you do; to share with the world how you do what you do and how you think about everything.

Students collaborating on an assignment are open source.  Companies sharing ideas to create better technology are open source.  Countries meeting to discuss ways to create world peace are open source.

When we think of open source in terms of new media, innovative ventures and entrepreneurial projects, we tend to think of the Dictionary.com definition.  When a new product requires software or web coding, making the code available to the public is the epitome of open source, or open source code (OSC).

One of the largest open source companies is Google.  When Google released their brand new web browser “Chrome” earlier this year, they made the entire project open source.  This allowed the legions of coders on the web to begin tweaking and experimenting with the Chrome engine.

Having access to open source code is like having the blueprints to an automobile.  People who want to take their car and make it faster and built for speed can look at the blueprints and find ways to make the car better for their use.

The same thing is happening with programs and utilities on the web.  When Google released Chrome, they did so only for Windows users.  Because Google let Chrome’s code be open source, coders have already created basic Mac and Linux versions of the browser before Google had the chance to.  Open source makes these kinds of projects possible.

Another well-known open source entity is the Linux operating system.  Unlike Mac OS and Windows, Linux is completely open source and completely free.   Written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux is a common solution for servers, but is gaining popularity among netbook companies.

Netbooks are small ultra-portable laptops with greater battery life than conventional notebooks.  Because Linux can be tweaked to custom fit any machine, netbook makers, such as ASUS, Acer and Lenovo, can form fit the Linux operating system to optimize the functionality of their products. Because Linux is open source, there are several different modified versions of the operating system, each with its own unique style, user interface and functionality.

In terms of new media ventures, open source is important because it creates transparency in your company.  When starting a new venture, it may be wise to inform the public of what it is you are trying to accomplish as you attempt to accomplish it.  By open sourcing the code and allowing outsiders to look over your shoulder as you create a product, you can extract crucial feedback from the people who are most likely to become your user base as well as from the expert coders who have experience with other products.

In today’s world, the most successful ventures are the ones who are open source and who share their ideas with the community before launching a product.  To better reach more people as well as create a better product before an initial launch, embracing the open source philosophy and methodology is a fundamental part of the process.


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