6 Open Source Technologies That Changed The World

6 Open Source Technologies That Changed The World

When something is referred to as “open source”, it means that people can modify and share the code because its design is publicly accessible. Anybody can modify the code to suit their own needs. Open source technology has been around for quite some time now. In the early days of software development, code was shared among developers so they could learn from each other and advance the sector. As the industry began to become more commercialized and competitive, developers began to advocate the idea of free software. Some developers felt that software should be accessible to all, not restricted to those with deep pockets.

In 1997, Eric Raymond published a reflective analysis of the hacker community and free software principles. This lead to the Netscape Communicator internet suite becoming open source. Such a big player in software development joining the open source movement helped gain the idea traction. The fact that any developer can alter the software makes the systems more secure, affordable, transparent and flexible. The more diverse your development group is, the more innovation you can pack into a product. Open source software can be locally changed to save costs, making it very popular for many purposes. It is often used for local applications where only a specific task needs to be accomplished.

Overall, the world of software would be much different without open source software. Below we will take a look at 6 things that the world be missing if it wasn’t for the Open Source Initiative.

1. Linux

Linux is significant to the open source community thanks to its early adoption and use in creating (and running) much of the modern internet. It is an operating system built in 1991, by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student at the time. His goal was to create an operating system that takes into account user feedback into its development cycle. It was based off Unix, an open source system. While I don’t want to get into the history of developing these systems, simply due to the amount of technical knowledge included, the subject is very interesting. For a very (very, very, very) thorough explanation check out The Linux Documentation Project.

Today, Linux is one of the most popular operating systems in the entire world. Around 98% of the world’s fastest supercomputers are Linux based. As seen in the chart below, 68% of tablets and mobile operating systems are Linux based.

Open Source technology dominates the mobile OS market

Worldwide Mobile OS Market Share

By W3Cook’s analysis of Alexa’s data, 96.3 percent of the top 1 million web servers are running Linux. The remainder is split between Windows ( 1.9 percent) and FreeBSD (1.8 percent).

Without Linux, it is nearly impossible to imagine where the world would be in terms of computing ability today. Web search would not exist and, the usefulness of the internet could be diminished greatly. The stability, standardization and security, all at a low cost, is the reason the OS has survived and thrived. These features would not be available if not for the open source origins of Linux.

2. Android

84.82% of smartphones worldwide run on the Android operating system. It has been growing exponentially since 2009, back when it only had 3.9% of the smartphone OS market. One of the reasons that Android is so popular is due to the open-source nature of the software. Google, Android’s parent company, makes deals to provide the software to hardware vendors for use with their devices. This opens access to Google services and marketplace to those using the devices.

Open source dominates Smartphone OS market

Smartphone OS Market Share

This strategy is completely opposite to that of their biggest competitor, Apple. Apple only puts iOS on Apple products. iOS is a closed-source system. Since it is restricted to Apple products, the adoption rate of the iOS is limited simply due to market constraints.

The open-source initiative that Android is based on has allowed the operating system to thrive in a competitive smartphone market. Google has become a major player in the smartphone environment, in less than a decade, due to their excellent implementation of open-source fundamentals. Without open source software, the smartphone market would look very different today.

3. Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

A Geographical Information System (GIS), is a computer system used to capture, store and analyze geographical and location-based data. GIS allows researchers to recognize patterns and relationships in geographic data. They are commonly used in industries that involve natural resources such as forestry, oil & gas, water management and in a variety of transportation-heavy sectors. GIS, when used in conjunction with GPS and logistics control solutions can help businesses become more efficient.

While not every GIS solution is open source, many of the early pioneers in the technology were proponents of free software. The original GIS solution MOSS (Map Overlay and Statistical System) was developed by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1978. Nearly all systems built since then, from GPS to location services, have built on the original open source solutions. Without these open source fundamentals, a large number of logistics control systems and location-based services would either not exist or still be in their infancy.

4. WordPress

WordPress, one of the world’s most popular blogging and web content management systems, is based on open source fundamentals. Without the Open Source Initiative, the software script that supports 27% of the web would not exist. The fact that WordPress is open sourced means that anyone can alter the code or create plugins. There are over 30,000 of these plugins, which add additional functionality to the website or blog. The plugins are responsible for things such as SEO, security, analytics and e-commerce functionality. All of these plugins are open source as well. Without the Open Source Initiative, one of the most functional CMSs in the world would not exist.

5. Firefox

Without Firefox, the browser market would be extremely different. Instead of a relatively competitive four solution battle, it would be reduced to three. Once you factor in that Safari is only available to Apple users, that becomes a two solution battle. You would have to pick between two technology giants, Google (with Chrome) or Microsoft (with Internet Explorer). The fact that there is a third option (for non-Apple users) completely changes the market. It forces the proprietary systems to be continually improved upon, or risk losing market share. Open source technologies like Firefox push innovation.

6. Liferay

Liferay Inc. is a technology company that is based on open source fundamentals. Their platforms are all offered in an open source format. The platform allows you to change the software so it can meet your specific needs. Liferay 7 is an open source version of their newest platform, Liferay DXP. The only differences between the open source version and the enterprise version is the level of support provided by the company.

Without Liferay, many corporate intranets and extranets, as well as a variety of portals would not exist. Costs associated with proprietary, black box systems would discourage many companies from adopting a portal, intranet or extranet. Liferay can provide a cost-effective solution that developers KNOW will work, simply based off being able to dive into the code.

The foundations of Liferay were developed over the years by a variety of developers. These efforts lead to the creation of various features of Liferay products, the system would not be the same (if it even existed) without the Open Source Initiative.


Without these technologies and platforms, the world would be an extremely different place. While there are closed source alternatives available for some of these technologies, the entire landscape would be completely shifted if open source software was not a thing.

The world would be a very different place if it was not for open source technology. Everyone would be using an iPhone, or maybe Blackberry would never have taken a tumble in market share. Internet Explorer and Chrome would be the two dominate web-browsers, never facing any external competition for non-Apple users. The internet would be dramatically altered because there would be no Linux or WordPress. Finally, we would not have any of the Liferay solutions. The world would be lacking top-of-the-line portal, intranet, and extranet solutions.

Open source technology has dramatically altered the world around us, nearly everything would be different. We would have no search engines, and the functionality of the internet would be significantly different. Proprietary solutions would be the only options, restricting who can even afford to use their technologies due to price. I for one, am thankful for the Open Source Initiative.

What did you think of our list? Would you have changed anything? Did we miss any big-name open source technologies? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ. #OpenSource