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What are the Different Types of Open Source Technology?

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  • Written By: James Gapinski
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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Open source technology has existed almost as long as computers. Technology is considered to be "open source" when the software code that is used to make it work has been specifically designed for easy access. This transparency allows for communities of programmers to examine the source code, and to make changes or enhancements to improve the technology.

It wasn’t until the 1990s and the commercialization of the Internet that open source technology became mainstream. The technology was further pushed into the limelight as Internet access became more affordable for households and increasingly available for free at many schools and libraries. As consumer tech knowledge increases, open source code will likely continue to be a popular option for programmers.

Open source technology, in its truest form, is any code available to the public with few or no copyright restrictions on how it can be changed or used. As social networking increases, however, open source technology has evolved into several subsets. The blog, message board, and journalistic subsets of open source technology make it possible for even the novice computer users to become part of an ever-changing Internet community.

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Blog communities are perhaps the most recognizable form of open source adaptation. WordPress® is one of the most successful and widely used open source blogging platforms of all time. As an open source platform, WordPress® and its competitors allow users to manipulate the freely available code to create aesthetically unique blog templates. Additionally, users unable to read the source code can still benefit from the technology since the open source medium allows for increased user interaction and well-maintained forums.

Internet users also benefit from open source message boards. Basic message board coding is widely shared among programmers. This makes it possible for first-time Web designers to copy and paste the code without any prior knowledge of HTML.

Similar to the emergence for blog culture and community message boards, grassroots journalism regularly uses open source technology. This type of open source application makes journalistic websites available to everyday users for uploading text, images, or video. So-called "citizen journalism" is a burgeoning business, with some major news affiliates paying active Internet users to provide blog commentary or advice columns.

All types of open source software are commonly used by start-up Internet companies. Even though granting holistic access can limit the resale value of the code, it does provide a virtually cost-free method of tweaking it and eliminating bugs. Successful open source code is used and adjusted by interested Internet users until most of its glitches are fixed. As such, open source code can be moved from test, also called "beta," software to publishable software very quickly.

Most larger companies simply perform in-house beta testing, and the technology is rigidly copyrighted. In the case of certain niche Web giants like WordPress® or LiveJournal®, however, open source technology provides for a more unique social networking experience. As social networking sites become more popular, open source will likely also enjoy increased usage and notoriety.

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umbra21
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - I'm looking forward to 3D printing being more ubiquitous, as it's often released as open source technology as well. Both the actual specifications of the machine and the designs it is capable of printing.

This could eventually lead to people sharing different methods of building and improving objects of all kinds, based in reality, rather than just digital technology.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@Ana1234 - It can be a very good thing, but it can also be a bad thing in some ways. Free open source technology being available can stagnate innovation, because there's no incentive to make something better if you can't profit from it. It can lead to advertising and other annoying installations on otherwise free software. For example, this is why WordPress blogs almost always have a lot of advertising. The company needs to get its money somewhere.

Of course, open source and free aren't always the same thing. As it says in the article, there are many different kinds of open-source technology.

Ana1234
Post 1

I love the way that open source software is used and adapted by people all over the world. I sometimes take it too much for granted but when you think about the number of volunteer hours that go into free open source software, it really indicates how brilliant the future of humanity could be.

Take the OpenOffice products. They are available for free to anyone who wants to use them and represent an enormous amount of work. They in turn have used open source software technology from other places and so on.

It's a very refreshing thing to experience when you consider how tightly commercial entities usually hold onto their intellectual property.

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