Open-source is often described as any software whose source code is open to the public for usage, modification, improvement, and redistribution. The power of open-source lies in the term itself -- it can’t be trademarked, because it is too open to be defined and used by a single company or individual. Many have tried to own it and failed.
For a little history: The term “open-source” evolved from free software, which first appeared in 1983, when people thought that access to computer software should be a lot easier and less costly. Later, in 1998, the term open-source arose, since the term “free software” was deemed only as “free to distribute.”
With the establishment of the Open-Source Initiative by Eric S. Raymond and Bruce Perens, open-source expanded into a development philosophy with a set of specific guidelines.
Today, the term open-source applies not only to software but to a broad array of products whose basic formula is openness to being tested, used, modified, and redistributed by the public. (Example: Ever heard of OpenCola? Its recipe is available here.)
The open-source approach has helped numerous products to improve and be used by many, free of charge. The biggest and most solid example among these is Linux, which is, if you ask me, the most stable operating system on the planet. It has evolved as it is today because of the many nameless people who tinkered with it.
Open-source has allowed individuals and organizations to improve products to suit their needs. It calls for a never-ending cycle of modifications and improvements, each of which makes a product appeal to broader chunks of the population. Its rise has become prevalent to the extent that some think that it will result in an open-source culture, where fixed ownership ceases to exist and where anyone or any organization can take something, modify it, and bring it back into the community.
Some fear that open-source could end capitalism as we know it. As always, there are pros and cons, but we should leave it to the experts to decide whether some form of copyright could be granted to the originators of a product.
Open-source has reportedly led to savings amounting to $60 billion a year to consumers. That’s enough to feed a small country for a whole year, and then some.
But for open-source to be truly compelling and relevant, its power should not stop at providing free cola, but go further to feed, educate, care, and help groups and individuals to rise above their impoverished situations; it should be an open-source of love and charity. Its power should be used to save the world. For every dollar saved, an equivalent, if not a fractional amount, should be donated to help the less fortunate. After all, we are only truly free if we are free from need. Savings from using an open-source approach can be applied to that greater goal.
— Enrico Pagtakhan works as a technology support specialist for Intercontinental Hotels Group Baguio, Philippines. He has had more than 15 years of IT experience.