How open source gets into your life

Open source is not a company. It's not a brand. It's a process.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

PenguinsOpen source is not a company. It's not a brand. It's a process. (These CEBit penguins originally appeared at ZDNet UK. OK, open source marketing leaves something to be desired.)

Most Americans already use a lot of open source. Their home routers may run Linux. Their TiVo runs Linux. Google runs Linux. Windows programs like Firefox are also open source.

To some who cover business, like Sarah Lacy over at BusinessWeek, this is somehow a problem. Since she doesn't see many open source trademarks in her daily life, it's invisible to her. And for someone writing about business, about profit, invisible makes you nervous.

It shouldn't. Open source is a process, in which what's basic becomes transparent and everyone builds on top of it. The Internet is now basic. Many software functions are now basic. By sharing these resources we build complex services, which are valuable.

What open source does for software is similar to what Moore's Law does for hardware. It drives down the prices of basic commodities to near-zero (there are still installation and training costs), and we build on top of them.

Once you have the basics, progress in these other areas flows quickly. You can move to higher levels of abstraction, or close in somewhere and get higher levels of detail.

It's those who make the best use of these tools, once there is broad access to them, who will prosper. And that's how you grow a 21st century economy.

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