Abstract: Open source has given us many innovations. This article provides an overview of the most important innovations and illustrates the impact that open source is having on the software industry and beyond. The main innovations of open source can be grouped into four categories: Legal innovation, process innovation, tool innovation, and business model innovation. Probably the best known innovations are open source licenses, which also define the concept.
Keywords: Open source, open collaboration, open innovation, software industry, business models
Reference: Riehle, D. (2019, April). The Innovations of Open Source. IEEE Computer vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 59-63.
I view open source mostly from an economic perspective. From this point of view, some of the words people use are curious. For example, people like to talk about “giving back” to the community or “donating a project” to the public. These idioms have community building power, like insider speak among those who speak it, but to non-insiders, they are mostly confusing.
I feel pretty certain that these idioms slowed down the growth and adoption of open source. So let me use the two I just picked as an example and translate them.
Open Source Expanded is the name of a new column (open-ended article series) that I’m editing for IEEE Computer Magazine. Expect a new article on open source and how it is changing the world every two months!
The first article on the innovations of open source was just published, kicking of the column. I could not negotiate an open license, however, all articles will be free to read and download.
I’m very much interested in the governance of open source projects, in particular if these are user-led projects. With this post, I’m proposing a basic terminology to talk about the formal organizational structure underlying the governance of such open source projects.
Any non-trivial university has a legal department, often several (at least one for matters of teaching and one for matters of fundraising). The legal department concerned with teaching has to protect the university from lawsuits by students. By extension, this department protects students from professors who ask too much of them. Often, there may be good reasons for this. Sometimes it gets in the way of effective teaching.
Most people believe that scientists first perform basic (“fundamental”) research and then perform applied research. Basic research delivers the fundamental insights that then get detailed and refined as they hit reality in applied research. Along with this comes the request that basic research funding should be provided by the country (because few companies would ever pay for it) before industry kicks in and supports applied research. Nothing could be further from the situation in my engineering process research.
The house magazine of IAV Automotive Engineering GmbH, a major supplier to the German automotive industry, which had interviewed Markus Blonn and me about open source and inner source at IAV, translated the magazine article into English, woohoo!
It is no secret that software is everywhere. No traditional product has remained untouched, whether the product is being produced using software or whether software is an integral part of it. As part of this wave of digitization, established vendors from outside the software industry need to avoid that someone else will reap all the profits from their products. That someone else would be software companies that supply needed components. In particular software platforms can have such network effects that their providers can reach a monopoly position so that dependent vendors who need the platform will face a diminishing profit margin.