Open source literally means that the source code is "open", offering users a chance to look at, modify, and distribute the source or blueprint of a design freely. Open Source boomed when the internet became globally accessible. It gave developers all over the word a chance to collaborate on a tool, that would be free and designed by the community.

Open Source Software

The ubuntu operating system
Ubuntu is a fully fledged open source operating system

Open source software is where the source code for a computer program in made readily available to the public. This allows anyone to edit, modify and use the software in whatever way they see fit. It is generally a collaboration between programmers, in which they improve, fix bugs, add features and release the changes back to the community project.

Open source started as a response to developers creating proprietary software, and the code being owned by the company who developed it. This not only meant users had to purchase the software, but had little-to-no input on features and fixing bugs. The open source model allows the entire development of a software product to be a collaboration, with the resulting software, designs, code and end result being free to the public.

Open Source Web Technology

A lot of open source web technology is commonly used around the world. These technologies started quite early on in the timeline of the web, and helped standardize the open internet we have today. The following are a few technologies that are open source and commonly used around the web:

  • Apache HTTP Server - A commonly used web server
  • My SQL & PostgreSQL - Databases used online to store data and create dynamic website content
  • PHP - Web scripting language often used with databases to create dynamic websites
  • Perl & Python - Server-side programming and scripting languages used for web applications
  • WordPress & Drupal - Online content management systems for creating blogs/websites

Open Source Software

Open Office word processor
OpenOffice easily rivals Microsoft Office

There are many different open source software projects that aim to replicate and improve on proprietary software developed as closed source by companies. These products often are developed for Linux, and then ported to Windows and Mac OSX:

  • Android - The most commonly used operating systems for mobiles and tablets
  • Blender - 3D graphics and animation package that has features similar to 3DS Max, Maya and C4D
  • Firefox - An open source web browser
  • GIMP - An image editor with features similar to Adobe Photoshop
  • - An office suite, rivaling Microsoft Office, featuring word processor, presentation and spreadsheet software.
  • GNOME & KDE - Desktop environments for Linux
  • Ubuntu - A complete Linux open source operating system

Open Hardware

An Arduino based project with a display and a breadboard
Arduino is open source hardware

Open hardware (or open source hardware) is the hardware equivalent of open source software. Open source hardware has the same community as open source software, allowing improvement, copies and new forks (new designs based on the original). The communities are not only developers and makers, but large companies and hobbyists.

  • Arduino - A microcontroller platform designed for artists, robotics designers, prototypes, hobbyists and designers. Its completely open nature has created a variety of products based on it.
  • Openmoko - An open source mobile phone series, including the operating system.
  • Tinkerforge - A set of stackable microcontroller boards with different functions. Supports multiple programming languages and communication interfaces.
  • LEON - A series of microprocessors created by the European Space Agency, based on the SPARC-V8.
  • Lasersaur - A laser cutter that originally started on Kickstarter.

The Future of Open Source

Open source opens the doors to many new makers and hackers, letting people see inside the code of the program they are running. As OS's like Ubuntu continue to rise in popularity, so will open source software. Many governments and corporations are switching over to open source, as the community and open and freeness of it offers much more than closed systems.

Open hardware allows makers to create their own projects that would not have been possible in the past. The open source community help each other out, so there's no need to be afraid of going open source. open source is here to stay.