SC Spheres

Open Source Revolution

Step 2

In 2013, Facebook took the decision to open source a JavaScript library called React that underpins the user interfaces of both Facebook and Instagram. Facebook continues to maintain React along with an army of independent developers and companies. Open source refers to a type of computer software where the source code is released under a license that grants users the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone for any purpose. The idea is to encourage development in a collaborative and public manner.

The open source movement can be traced back to an essay written by Eric S. Raymond on software engineering methods in 1997. The essay that later became a book, is entitled ‘The Cathedral & The Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary’ and contrasts two different free software development models; the Cathedral model where development is restricted to an exclusive group of developers and the Bazaar model where development is over the internet in full view of the public. Raymond argues for the Bazaar model where ‘given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow’ thereby saving the time and energy spent on hunting for bugs in the Cathedral model.

This essay was one of the factors that inspired Netscape to release the source code for its browser software in 1999 and create the Mozilla Organisation to co-ordinate future developments along the lines of the Bazaar model. Netscape is credited with creating the JavaScript programming language, the most widely used language for client-side scripting of web pages. The ‘free software movement’ was seen as a threat to the commercial software industry. The ‘open source’ movement that came afterwards was more accessible to the commercial software industry, although commercial software vendors still felt their businesses threatened by the concept of freely distributed software. This has since all changed as is evidenced by Facebook’s decision to open source React. Now Microsoft, IBM, Google and Oracle all have a stake in today’s competitive open-source market.

Open source offers the potential for more flexible technology and quicker innovation. Open source is not dependent on the company or author that originally created it. Even if the company disappears, the code continues to exist and can be developed by its users. Open source does not have the problem of incompatible formats that exist in proprietary software.

The SC Spheres platform runs on an Open Source Linux-based operating system called Ubuntu. Using open source also allows SC Spheres to take advantage of Open Source technologies such as React as well as PostgreSQL, Docker, Django and NGINX.

Open source gives a small development team based in South Africa access to the latest technology innovations from across the world, and an army of independent developers should there be a need to scale up for a larger project.

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