– By Abishek Shenoy (Editorial Board)
Open Source is a term coined relatively recently, in 1998, when Netscape released the source code for Navigator. A soon to be massive community had its foundation set that year.
The Idea – Any common man can obtain the source code for the software he uses. Armed with this all-access card, one can tweak the code or append some features to improve it. An open source community would encourage sharing and collective advancement. Supporters would release the tweaked code in this spirit. This circle of improvement and re-release would evolve the code into a holistic and refined piece of software.
Such a revolutionary spark of brilliance created waves in a technological society saturated with proprietary software. Fuelled by the Open Source Initiative, supporters proliferated instantly.
With this, came open source operating systems, applications, programming languages and the like. Linux took the world by storm, enticing users with various options and opportunities. Android, Python, WordPress all sprung up soon after. It worked in a magical way to empower users world over.
On another front, little wonders like Arduino and the Ouya are paving the way for open source hardware. The Arduino, a microcontroller prototyping platform for which the board layout as well as the IDE are open. This allows electronics hobbyists to try out small projects and even create an Arduino board of their own. Ouya is a Rubik’s cube sized gaming console that runs on Android, is legally open to rooting and can be easily turned inside out with a simple screwdriver. Now gamers can modify the internal hardware to suit the games they want to play. Truly puts the reins of power in your hands!
Let’s move over technology! Today, the concept of open source has worked its way into all facets of life, even beverages. Yes! Innovators had the novel idea of ‘open source colas’, making the recipe available and allowing volunteers and patrons to develop its taste.
From whichever standpoint, it is hard to ignore the advantages of such a framework. It is common knowledge that we don’t tamper with things we don’t know about. This feeling of being kept in the dark about the gadgets, software, etc. that we use day in and day out is humbling. By creating transparency, open source aims to eradicate that knowledge gap. When such powerful tools become available freely, even the average Joe would want to reap its benefits!
A world where you not only get what you want, but also the means to make it, where sharing of information is easy and where every user can become a developer – that is what the Open Source Initiative seeks to achieve. And it is getting there!