Was 2007 the ‘Golden Age of Open Source’? (linuxjournal.com)
on Monday August 12, 2019 @05:34AM
from the lost-decades dept.
Just a few months ago, the editor of the recently-departed Linux Journal wrote that in many ways the golden age of Linux and FOSS was 2007. “Linux was now mainstream in corporate IT, and it was much rarer to meet much resistance when you wanted to set up Linux servers, unless your company was a 100% Windows shop… FOSS companies were making a lot of money, and developers were being paid to work on Linux and FOSS full time.”
He also wrote that when Linux Journal later folded (the first time), “It became clearer than ever to me that while Linux and FOSS had won the battle over the tech giants a decade before, new ones had taken their place in the meantime, and we were letting them win.”
And he offered this final assessment in April:
Today, Linux has wide hardware support, and a number of vendors offer hardware with Linux pre-installed and supported. The internet itself is full of FOSS projects, and one of the first things people do when they are about to start on a software project is to look on GitHub to see if anything that meets their needs already exists. Linux absolutely dominates the cloud in terms of numbers of VMs that run it, and much cloud infrastructure also runs FOSS services. Linux also is in many people’s pockets and home appliances. Linux and FOSS are more ubiquitous than ever.
Linux and FOSS also are more hidden than ever. So many of those FOSS projects on GitHub ultimately are used as building blocks for proprietary software. So many companies that seem to champion FOSS by helping upstream projects they rely on also choose to keep the projects they write themselves proprietary. Although Linux dominates the cloud, more and more developers and system administrators who use the cloud do so via proprietary APIs and proprietary services. New developers and sysadmins get less exposure to Linux servers and FOSS services if they use the cloud how the providers intended. And, while Linux runs in your pocket and in your home, it’s hidden underneath a huge layer of proprietary applications.
For the most part, the FOSS philosophy that defined Linux in its early days is hidden as well. Many people in the community tout FOSS only in terms of the ability to see code or as a way to avoid writing code themselves. It has become rarer for people to tout the importance of the freedoms that come along with FOSS and the problems that come from proprietary software. Indeed, most Linux application development in the cloud these days is done on Mac or Windows machines — something that would have been considered unthinkable in the early days of Linux… I encourage everyone from all corners of the community not to take FOSS and Linux for granted. The world of readily available code and mostly open protocols you enjoy today isn’t a given. If current trends continue, we could be back to a world of proprietary software, vendor lock-in and closed protocols like the world before 1994.
This new battle we find ourselves in is much more insidious. The ways that proprietary software and protocols have spread, in particular on mobile devices, has made it much more challenging for FOSS to win compared to in the past. If we want to win this battle, we need the whole community to work together toward a common goal.
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