In the past, open source is often viewed as a free software. Well, that’s in the past. The main difference between a free software and open source is the availability of the source code. Open Source software allows people to make changes to the software and they are freely distributed.
When we ponder on the last sentence we can see that these ideas creates some of the most spectacular projects that is available today. It is due to all these reasons that we get to use fantastic software without cost. Some of the great software include Mozilla Firefox and Linux Operating System. Where as it is completely free to distribute there is an organization formed of volunteers to regulate these creations. Whereas the source code is regulated by some of the organization so as not to see it take steps backwards in development terms, it leaves the door open to massive opportunity in terms of growth.
Many people may think that open source software is something that is relatively young but its history stems back more that four decades and its journey is one of the longest in the history of software. From some extensive research I discovered that it was in the 1960’s IBM and others were starting to sell large scale commercial computers that came with free software where the source code could be modified and improved. As proprietary firms then started to stop free distribution of software and start charging users for it, it then led to the foundations of the current open source movement that we know today being formed by two groups in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In the East Coast of America, one group was found. Soon another group was also founded in the West Coast.
A programmer named Richard Stallman worked for MIT artificial intelligence decided to quit his position and start the GNU project and the free software foundation. Their ultimate aim was to create an operating system that is free. This then led them to designing the GNU General Public License that was used as a legal implication so that it ensured that the software would always remain free. This license was also used to encourage and promote the development of more free software.
Richard Stallman then went on to write the GNU manifesto that stated the availability of source code and the freedom to modify and re-distribute it are fundamental rights. Respectively on the west coast the computer science research group were improving the UNIX system which then went on to become “BSD Unix”.
If we move on swiftly to the 1980’s and 90’s the scene then started to change immensely as strong user communities were built using USENET and the Internet. Open source continued development in isolated groups. As a result of the user communities it led to the software that had been developed being merged and integrated which resulted in complete environments being able to be built on top of UNIX using open source software. As we move into the early 1990s a student from Finland was implementing the first prototype of the Linux system. This move caused many people to work together and make the system more usable for the mainstream. Soon, the GNU/Linux OS was made available.
These events would later change the open source model so that we today can enjoy these software for free. What an amazing journey open source is and even more fascinating is that fact that it has enriched to world of information technology and our lives immensely.