“Open source as a development model promotes: a) Universal access via free license to a products design or blueprint, and b) universal redistribution of that design or blueprint, including subsequent improvements to it by anyone” (Gerber, Molefe, and van der Merwe 2010)
In the past fifteen years, the principles ‘Open Source’ have exploded into the software industry. (Open Source Initiative 2012; Weber 2004) Open software now rivals the market share and quality of closed, commercial products. (Spinellis 2008)
Following the success of open software, the same principles are being applied to other forms of product development. These include structural standards, furniture and product design, fashion, and architecture. In this essay I am going to offer a brief account on the history and development of the Open Source Movement and open source software. From this historical account, I will examine the successes and failures of the movement. By applying similar logic, I will be able to speculate how Open Source could be applied successfully to different fields, specifically in design and architecture.
Prior to the arrival of the personal computer and the ‘digital era’, there was a fairly common exchange of information without being bound by monetary reimbursement. People shared cooking recipes, labour, construction methods. A ‘vernacular’ developed through the co-operation of many individuals working towards a common goal. (Blier 2006)
Since the invention of capitalism, copyright and licensing has protected individual authors, but stifles the free exchange of information. While patent law is obviously beneficial to the author, the varying breadth of protection for intellectual property could suppress the most important part; actually accessing the information. (Scotchmer 1991) Thus, openness has drastically reduced.
In the beginning of computing and computer development, technology companies often shared the source code to various applications. However as competition increased, the incentive for open software became less substantial. The financial promise of commercial software products overtook the moral and ethical benefits of Open Source. (Schindler 2009)
Up until 1969, IBM was issuing bundled software under a free license until a US injunction ruled that it must sell its products, as free licenses were anticompetitive. Consequently, it became standard for all software to only be developed under a commercial license. (Weber 2004)¬
The next ten years saw continued development in computing, but only small pockets of open development within a sea of commercial applications and operating systems. It wasn’t until the widespread uptake of the Internet that the Open Source Software started to move into the mainstream.
Internet servers were increasingly based on free operating systems and protocols, such as Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. These technologies are still dominant in today’s Internet era. (W3Tech 2013; W3Counter 2013; NetMarketShare...