Open Source

10 things the open source community got right in 2013

Jack Wallen highlights 10 wins for the open source community over the past year.


Linux winning

The year 2013 was one of the best years for open source in recent memory. It seemed like every month of the year brought yet another announcement either by or for the community that celebrates all things Linux and open source. From gaming to massive, national adoption, open source might well have enjoyed its most diverse line of successes since the platform was born. Does this mean Linux has finally made its way to mass acceptance? The answer is that it's very, very close. Let's take a look at the 2013 successes before we draw our final conclusion.

1. Android continues to reign supreme in the mobile space

The U.S. smartphone sales in 2013 looked like this: iOS 43.5 % vs. Android 51.2 % (other 5.3 %). Considering that Apple released iOS 7 along with the iPhone 5C and 5S — the fact that Android outsold Apple devices in 2013 is seriously impressive. 2013 also saw some major improvements to Android performance and usability, along with the release of some of the most powerful smartphones on the market, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

2. SteamOS is probably the biggest win for open source

One of the biggest complaints against Linux has been its failure as a gaming platform. However, with the help of SteamOS, Linux can finally be seen as a serious gaming platform. In fact, it's Valve's intention to get SteamOS into living rooms across the globe. Once this epic hurdle is behind the open source operating system, the sky is the limit.

3. Ubuntu pulls Mir for 13.10

This might not seem like a serious win for open source, but it was such the right decision to be made, so I had to include it. Canonical was so driven to get Mir in the 13.10 release of Ubuntu, it seemed as if they were on a collision course with disaster. The display server simply wasn't ready to be shipped to the average user. Had Canonical continued with this, Saucy Salamander could have been one of the most unstable, unusable releases in the history of Ubuntu.

4. Ubuntu Edge indiegogo

Yet another entry that, at first blush, looks to be a failure. Canonical set themselves up to raise $32 million for the development and release of what could have been the most remarkable mobile device ever made. Although the indiegogo campaign failed to raise the total amount, it broke plenty of records in trying. Canonical wound up surpassing $10 million raised, proving there is high interest in Ubuntu as a smartphone platform.

5. Linux on Alienware

First Dell bought Alienware (one of the more popular companies that focused on gaming computers), and then Alienware started selling machines pre-loaded with Linux. This, of course, was a smart move, considering the rise of Steam on Linux (and Valve's proclamation that Linux would be a superior gaming platform over Windows 8).

6. Sales of Raspberry Pi hit 2 million

This tiny Linux-embedded device is a dream-come-true to developers, hobbyists, and start-ups. Few would have thought, upon initial release, that the Pi would become so popular. During 2013, all doubt was cast aside when the two millionth Raspberry Pi was sold. The list of Linux distributions the Pi supports is impressive, and what can be done with the Pi is mind blowing. The fact that a Linux-specific embedded "developer" tool such as the Pi can become so successful, and so quickly, is a testament to the open source world.

7. The rise of Nginx

It was only a matter of time before a new web server came into existence that would challenge Apache. Although Nginx was first created in 2009, it was this year — 2013 — that the little known server made a serious challenge to what has been the most popular web server in the world. Currently, 14.7 % of the world's web sites use Nginx. That's not a huge number, but it is impressive considering how relatively young the server is.

8. Ubuntu moves forward, unfazed

It seems odd that one of the biggest wins for open source would be Ubuntu not caving to the pressure of the members of the open source world it angered. Had Canonical caved and either reverted back to Wayland or, even worse, dropped Unity for GNOME 3, the inroads Ubuntu had made into the desktop world would have been set back to the point where it may never have recovered. Canonical needed to press forward and not be fazed by the complaints coming from those who felt slighted by their business tactics. Canonical has been on a mission to get Linux into business and onto the desktop. Ubuntu couldn't afford any major setbacks.

9. Kaylin Linux (China national OS — Ubuntu)

Based on Ubuntu, Kaylin Linux was created to serve as the official operating system for China. We're not talking about the official OS for Google or another company — we're talking a country. China now has its own stable, secure Linux operating system. From the start, Kaylin will meet the multi-language input needs of the country and eventually will seamlessly integrate with web services such as Baidu and Taobao.

10. MariaDB and Oracle's purchase/handling of MySQL

MariaDB was the reaction of the open source community to Oracle's purchase and handling of MySQL. It's a complete drop-in replacement for the open source powerhouse. This fork was necessary, due to licensing issues that developed after MySQL was purchased by Oracle. The intent of the fork is to maintain high compatibility with MySQL, while ensuring that everything remain in accordance to GLP licensing. As deeply embedded as MySQL is, this fork was a much needed escape from the clutches of Oracle.

The year 2013 was a grand year for all things open source. Was it perfect? No. There were downs along with the ups, which I plan to cover in my next post. However, when it's all is said and done, open source came out looking quite strong, and it's poised to continue to grow until the desktop and the business world are finally conquered.

What do you think is the biggest win for open source for 2013? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.



Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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