I remember as it was today. Back in 1995 when I was attending a 8 months long SCO Unix + shell programing course. It was the first contact I had with Unix systems that was being broadly used by HP, IBM and SUN on their expensive cisc/risc servers.
During one of the classes, one of my colleagues mentioned that he ordered a CD-ROM from a group called Slackware, developing a new kind of unix system called Linux, based on a kernel developed and maintained by a guy called Linus Torvalds, which could be customised to run on different type of machines and processors. It could be installed on our personal computers to practice our shell classes and also other unix command lines, and the best of all, it was free of charge, or as we call it nowadays OpenSource.
We all decided to share the CD + shipping costs with our colleague and get a legal copy of the OS for ourselves. I was so amazed by the fact that a group of people was working on something “cool” and totally for free, but why? I was in doubt of the quality of the OS and possible problems I could have by using something I was not being charged to use.
Then my Slackware 1.1 copy arrived. I went straight home to get that working on a spare 486 66MHz PC I made out of parts of other computers. This was the beginning of a nightmare. It took me forever to get that OS installed, when I finally managed to get the OS booting I realised that most of the devices were not working properly. How do I install drivers on this OS now? By compiling a new Kernel? Modules? That was the time I thought that this called OpenSource was not as good as it was being sold or “given for free”. The time I thought that “free” can be expensive!
I did not give up, at the end I wanted to have a legal OS running at home to be used for my course assignments. It took not more than 4 weeks to go from a nightmare feeling to start loving that so called Linux. I managed to install all drivers. Even better than that, I could customise the installation as I wanted, which made the OS on a old PC boot and run faster than my other quicker MS Windows machine.
Since then I’ve been using Linux and supporting the opensource community by using and giving feedback of my experience.
I went a little bit away from what I wanted to talk about. But based on my own experience from more that 15 years ago. The open source platforms came to stay and overtake other proprietary software, all based on collaboration.
We can cite as an example Apache that overtook IIS. OpenOffice/LibreOffice that took a big chunk of the MS office market and many other softwares that now are also available as mobile apps to be download and used by the general public.
Proprietary software companies are nowadays using the OpenSource model to take profit out of it. The so called SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is a clear example where software providers are not charging for licenses anymore. Instead they provide a whole infrastructure, usually in the cloud and based on opensource systems, and sell it to its customers as a service. In other words, customers are paying for a license which is not called “license” anymore.
The trend I see from now on is the same I’ve been seeing for the past 15 years when I installed my very first open source OS. It came to stay, develop further and be freely used by anyone that wants to. The only thing that will change is the way that corporations are profiting out of the open source software or model, be that by selling it as a service or throwing paid ads to its users.