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What's the Future of Open Source Software--and Why Should You Care?

What's the Future of Open Source Software--and Why Should You Care?

Feb 21, 2007
Mary Hobson
Technology Schools Columnist

Open-source software has been with us for many years. The most famous is Linux, an operating system that takes the functionality of the Unix operating system and develops it for use on PCs and servers. Linux is a very successful example of open sourcing, providing the platform for a number of new developments.

Cooperative Operating Systems

So what is open sourcing, and if it's such a good idea, why doesn't all software get developed in this fashion? Open sourcing is simply cooperative development of software. Someone writes some software, and allows other people access to the source code in order to add what they want, or in some cases to debug tricky pieces of code. This is a particularly useful system for people who are involved in systems software. Students often spend time working in open source projects to hone their skills.

However, as open source development is not supervised or (usually) documented, it can lead to some unreliable software. Everyone wants to work on the "interesting" features of the project, and the bug fixing and unexciting parts of a project are often neglected. There are no standards set for the abilities of the programmers, and serious bugs can be embedded in software that can be very difficult to dig up and solve.

Open source is one of the ways in which software development is evolving, allowing industry standard software to exist outside the barriers of cost and exclusive intellectual property. Linux has become the de facto standard OS used on Internet servers; maybe systems software will become like roads--the cost is shared by everyone, as everyone has an interest in making sure they exist.

If you're interested in helping to create the next generation of software, consider a degree or certificate in information technology. Jobs are everywhere for programmers, software engineers and technicians. Ideas like open source software are just the beginning, and you can join the next wave of the technology revolution.


About the Author

Mary Hobson is the Head of IT School for a Polytechnic in New Zealand. She worked as a consultant for technology start-ups in Russia for twelve years.