Introduction and History of Open Source Software
As a computer user, most people will be aware of paid software and open source or free software. Windows, for example is paid software product, as the command lines are hardcoded within the software, and cannot be modified without access rights. Open source, as the name suggests, is any free software product that allows the user to use, modify and redistribute the software. Few examples of free or open source software products are Linux operating system, Mozilla Firefox web browser, and OpenOffice suite. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Open Source Initiative (OCI) are the two main responsible bodies that maintain and guard these free software’s. On a general term these software’s are referred as F/OSS.
F/OSS community is not only considered as a development in software engineering, as it is also associated with the psychological, philosophical, social, economic, and cultural aspects of innovation. Many developers are into creating F/OSS to fulfill their passion in creativity. They want to exhibit their sense of creativity and experience their innovative skills practically. The developers are mostly 60% males under the age of 26 years. These developers appreciate fun while coding, and improve their programming skills with a goal to provide free software to every user. F/OSS community attracts many highly motivated participants to collaborate with like-minded individuals. Every individual has a peculiar reason to join the F/OSS community, which in turn is only concerned about providing incentives, and not motivation.
F/OSS community has talented individuals for developing software, but it must also be concerned about the security and dependability of the software, and the withstanding capability of F/OSS economic and business models. Software engineering has its own protocols that do not fit completely into the F/OSS business models; however the F/OSS companies and hybrid proprietary-F/OSS companies created new offers and established software as a service, value of software use rather than value of software purchase. F/OSS uses some methods for the software development to align with a few rules of software engineering. The community also has major impact on the companies that do not share the sources. Open source is getting so common that even researchers from other domains such as economics, sociology, management and many others have started showing lots of interest in it.
Linux, which is built using UNIX, was developed at Bell Labs, under a license given to ATT Company that wanted to commercialize UNIX. These developments led to the rise of BSD Unix and Linux to be provided as free alternatives. The licensing of open source started as an effort to withhold the sharing tradition, which later extended consciousness of the importance of sharing. Open Source software must have an economic value (software commoditization), collaborate with network-enabled devices, and must be easily customizable. Most of the web-browsers use Linux as the backend server, including the IT giant, Google. Internet Explorer from Microsoft and the open source Apache web-server can be considered a commodity because both are controlled by the open standards of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This clearly depicts that F/OSS follows the web standards honestly.
Another open source BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Daemon) package executes the Domain Name System (DNS) mainly required in web-browsers. The websites are reachable from any corner of the world because BIND runs the DNS. Sendmail, Apache, and Perl are the most common OSS. To redistribute Linux F/OSS requires new models to be created. This community is not earning as much as Microsoft or Oracle because they have not remodeled their business strategy of marketing. Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet standards body also has a many resemblances with an open source software project, and the approach followed by IETF works toward collaborating the open source and open standards.
Some of the open source projects like OpenOffice.Org are hosted on Collab.Net, on which the developers can share the code. Such practices using open source development tools are also used by organizations to manage global development teams, or customers. Though, all the companies use open source as backend for the web applications, the developers are still way behind in promoting it. It is certain that the ethics of the free and open source community are an integral part of the shift from paid to free software.
- What kinds of developers opt for developing open source software, and does the F/OSS community motivate such developers?
- Why HTML is not considered an open source technology though its simple structure is absolute key to rapid spread of the web?
- Is software a process or a product? If it is a process, can it be used in engineering to challenge the specification requirement?