Since the beginning of the computing age i.e. adaption of computing systems, sharing of software has been considered a norm of the society. During the early 1950s and 1960s, first computers to be developed included the software i.e. source code, with them. This practice was encouraged to make software better, and offer modifications and fixes as needed, by virtue of ease for the subjected organisation. Earliest adoption was done by educational institutions, and modifications done were shared among the network of universities.
The progression of time gave way to innovation, and the world was introduced to more advanced software solutions. With the development of operating systems, software complexity gave way to new algorithms, and open information sharing practices were no longer widespread. Fewer organisations allowed modifications to their solutions, this rate decreases dramatically.
Looking at History
Although, the information sharing concept might seem new, but its not. Even before the world saw the age of computing. During the early years of automobile development, George B. Selden owned the patent to a 2-cycle gasoline engine. Industrial manipulation was practised by the company, and car manufactures had to risk lawsuits or adhere to their demands.
Everyone knows “Ford Motor Company” but little do we know that Henry Ford won the challenge to George Selden, making the patent worthless. This resulted in the formation of a new association, later to be called as “Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association”. This pivotal event shifted the gears of the US auto manufacturers progression, and by the time of WWII, there were 92 Ford patents, and 515 patents of other car manufacturers being exchanged without any monetary or legal implications.
Getting to the point under discussion, free software sharing was quite strongly established in the academia community and was considered a normal practice. In 1953, UNIVAC (A division of Remington Rand) developed the “A-2 system”. It was released to consumers with the source code. Later on, all the IBM mainframe computers came with software included source code. This was further facilitated by the DECUS, and SHARE user groups formation.
Age of the Internet Begins
This common practice led to the idea of the formation of ARPANET, modern version of which is called the “Internet”. Adoption of the free software did not go well in the long-term for some customers, and there was a sheer disagreement on the fact that bundled software came with support services. Those services were thought by the customers as being too cumbersome. Acting as a catalyst for policy-makers, the US vs. IBM “Antitrust” suit came with the verdict of being “Anti-competitive”. AT&T started Unix distribution in the 1970s at a no-cost model for governments and academic institutions. With the widespread use of Unix free distribution, AT&T stopped rights of distribution, with new version upgrades; the later came with a license fee.
By the early 1980s software licensing become a norm in industrial practices, and it was charged. In 1983, IBM announced that it would longer distribute software sources, with the purchased software. In the same year, Richard Stallman launched the “GNU Project” to write a completely free operating system. Later in 1985, Stallman wrote the “GNU Manifesto” and founded the “Free Software Foundation” to promote the concept.
With 1990s came the age of Linux, and Linus Torvalds released the freely modifiable code in 1991. It was later re-licensed under the “GNU General Public License”. Adoption of Linux grew rapidly, and Ubuntu (and its derivatives) became popular Linux distributions. The USL vs. BSDi in 1993 led to the release of FreeBSD and NetBSD as free software. Released as of 2004 under the name “Dragonfly BSD”. Beforehand, Sun Microsystems released “StarOffice” in the year 2000, later becoming “OpenOffice.org” and coexistent with “StarOffice”.
Operating Systems are Designed
Over the next few years products like “X Window System”, desktop environments of KDE and GNOME, Harmony Toolkit. GTK+ was chosen as the base for GNOME. Both KDE and GNOME are working together to standardise Unix desktop environments.
The organisation threatened the most by the growth on the open software industry was Microsoft, which was apparent in the “Halloween Documents”. Steve Ballmer even went to the extent of calling it a “cancer”, but has stopped using the analogy since. Microsoft then began softening the stance on open-source software eventually, and in 2006 launched "CodePlex" which operated until 2017.
The European Commission in 2004, found Microsoft guilty of anti-competitive behaviour. Microsoft was required to produce a complete documentation of work-group protocols, and fines of 1.5 million euros per day were made applicable upon failure to comply. SAMBA was the key beneficiary of this documentation.
In 2003, the SCO made the news claiming that the Linux kernel copied the Unix kernel, and sued IBM for that. Lacking specificity in the allegations did not make much of a difference to IBM, although critics tried to paint a completely different picture. Further investigations revealed the fact that SCO itself offered Linux distributions under GPL, and did not have the legal rights to own much of Unix code. Moreover, they did not have the rights to represent Novell, who actually owned the rights to the code. Although, SCO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2007, and Darl McBride was laid off; bankruptcy trustee decided to keep the lawsuits in motion, due the fact that an agreement was signed stating that if there is an outset of SCO, there will be representation for a fixed charge, as long as the lawsuit goes on.
Age of the Open-Source
Over the years, the open-source software development has contributed immensely to the idea of open-programming languages. Interesting to note, the programming languages being used today, as available as open-source packages offered for free. To name few are Java, ActionScript, C#, Python, Ruby and Scala.
Recent developments in the open-source community has helped shape the existing global infrastructure i.e. the development of Android and Chromium OS. Git was created in 2005 has become the most popular DVCS (Distributed Version Control System). The barriers to development were further dissolved with the development of GitHub in 2008. As a result of the development of such platforms, no more unnecessary workarounds are required. Programmers can now easily work on projects in a remote space while keeping pace with the subjected project under development. The latest innovation is the “Blockchain” which further evolves on the “decentralisation” concept.
As of today, both software concepts reside side-by-side, and this has encouraged the development of software communities that have helped shaping the world for a better future.