Open Source

Open Source

Heidi Lee Schnackenberg (SUNY Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch543
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The phrase “open source” is not something often heard in everyday conversation. However, the idea of downloadable, free, software, particularly mobile applications, or “apps,” has become quite commonplace. Individuals often download free products, grateful that they are available, and will potentially work well, without thinking where they originate or why they even exist. Not so long ago, most things associated with computers available to the general population came at a cost and were available from only a few vendors. Presently, this is no longer the case thanks to the ever-increasing availability and popularity of open source software, operating systems, and applications.
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An excellent example of this is the way in which open source has made deep inroads into the realm of mobile technologies (Chao, 2011). While “free” applications for mobile devices – smart phones, cell phones, tablets, etc. – are available for download, they are not open source products. These “free” applications, or “apps” are merely trial or limited versions of more complete products that users are tempted to buy in order to get the most complete functionality (Schnackenberg, Vega, & Heymann, 2014). True open source mobile applications come complete to the user when downloaded, and their source code is available for altering (Syer, Nagappan, Hassan, & Adams, 2013). In fact, the operating system of the Android smart phone itself is open source (Butler, 2011). Presently, the number of open source mobile applications (apps) available to download on smart phones that assist the user in completing day-to-day activities is growing exponentially. It is likely that smart phone, cell phone, and tablet users all search for free, open source, “apps” before they download the ones that are commercially produced. Given that, it is clear that open source has indeed impacted mobile technologies and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

In many senses, open source is a prevalent common practice of the hacker community (Sarma & Matheus, 2015; Soderberg & Delfanti, 2015), and a strongly held belief of technological idealists (Lakhani & Wolf, 2007). It is perhaps a type of high-tech grassroots movement. Open source products and applications are a manifestation of these practices and beliefs from which lay people can benefit. In his book, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Raymond (2005) famously likens the culture and the creation process of open source to a bazaar, or an open market, where everyone has some unique goods to offer that all interplay for the benefit of the whole. Raymond contrasts this to the very hierarchical way in which ancient cathedrals were built. Despite its philosophical underpinnings and model of operations running entirely counter to conventional wisdom about how knowledge is created and how traditional business models function, the open source movement has taken a strong foothold in our technological culture (Weber, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web 2.0: In the broadest sense, the second iteration of the World Wide Web (WWW), where web pages allow users to communicate, collaborate, and construct knowledge via social networks, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis, etc.

Linux: A Unix-compatible operating system that was collaboratively developed and is free to the public.

Intellectual Property: Ideas, creations, and inventions that are the exclusive property of the owners.

Open Source: A philosophy and a methodology associated with free and collaborative, creation, modification and use of software applications and operating systems.

OLPC: One Laptop per Child.

FOSS: Free Open Source Software.

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