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Friday September 04, 2020 |Notes

Open source software has eaten the world

Open source software runs the world in many respects. Wired recently published an article on the prominence and importance of open source software, citing a list that includes Netflix, f-16 fighter jets, and the majority of websites:

WHEN YOU STREAM the latest Netflix show, you fire up servers on Amazon Web Services, most of which run on Linux. When an F-16 fighter takes off, three Kubernetes clusters run to keep the jet’s software running. When you visit a website, any website, chances are it’s run on Node.js. These foundational technologies—Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js—and many others that silently permeate our lives have one thing in common: open source.

Open source is a technology development and distribution methodology, where the codebase and all development—from setting a roadmap to building new features, fixing bugs, and writing documentation—is done in public. A governing body (a group of hobbyists, a company, or a foundation) publicly manages this work, which is most often done in a public repository on either GitHub or GitLab. Open source has two important, and somewhat counterintuitive, advantages: speed and security.

Open source certainly helps our ecommerce agency in nearly every project. This site runs on GatsbyJS, is hosted on github, and includes a number of open source plugins. Most of our ecommerce projects run on either Wordpress with woocommerce or Shopify. And while Shopify is not open source, the Liquid coding language created by Shopify is open source.

There are signs that open source code has peaked, and it's a potentially troubling sign. Techdirt posted about the declining spread of open source recently:

Looking at the longer-term trends, an initial, transient exponential growth was found until 2009 for commits and contributors, until 2011 for the number of available projects, and until 2013 for available lines of code. Thereafter, all those metrics reached a plateau, or declined. In one sense, that's hardly a surprise. In the real world, exponential growth has to stop at some point. The real question is whether open source has peaked purely because it has reached its natural limits, or whether they are other problems that could have been avoided.

Essentially every digital commerce company makes use of open source software. While it's true that software has eaten the world, it's even more true for open source software. The proliferation of open source is in decline, and that could lead to future innovation bottlenecks.

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