Friday, December 09, 2005

Evolution of the Open Source Culture

Open source software evolved out of work at universities with a community of developers who were expected to share source code in the same way that academic researchers share their research through publication. When software started to move toward a proprietary licensing model, the open source movement took root as a way to keep the source code available to developers.

The open source culture has a foundation in a peer review system of meritocracy similar to academic / university communities. In academic publishing, authors must convince a panel of expert reviewers that their research articles are relevant, technically correct, and worthy of being published in a particular publication. The open source community functions in a similar manner. Open source developers must convince a group of peers that their contribution is relevant, technically correct, and worthy of being included in the project source code.

In the early days of open source software, communities were made up of enthusiastic volunteers who contributed to projects during their free time as an evenings and weekends effort. As open source gained market share and traction within corporations, more companies started to sponsor developers. These corporate developers are paid by an organization to contribute full-time to an open source project. Notable examples include Linus Torvalds (OSDL) and Michael "Monty" Widenius (MySQL). As a result of this evolution, open source projects are increasingly being used within corporations for important functions, and innovation is accelerating at a more rapid pace as people spend more time contributing to open source.

There are 2 great books that cover the history and the culture of open source:

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