Image: OSS

It’s been an amazing decade for open source. So many things have happened–some of which have profoundly changed the way in which businesses work, and some of which greatly improved the Linux desktop experience.

I’m highlighting what I believe are the best innovations to have come out of the open source community since 2010. Are there more great open source innovations? Yes, of course, but in my opinion these are some of the most important ones.

This article is also available as a download, Best open source innovations of the decade (free PDF).

SEE: More Decade in Review coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)


There are two sides of this coin. Some might say that containers are little more than the buzzword du jour; however, containers aren’t going anywhere. Although the idea of containers has been around for over a decade, it wasn’t until October 2013 that Docker came into existence. And yes, there are those who say that Docker’s popularity has faded over the past few years, but if it weren’t for Docker containers, a number of new and very important technologies would not have been given life. I would also argue that Docker was the first to actually make the deployment of containerized applications easy.

And ponder this, if it weren’t for Docker, we might not have.…


Kubernetes came into being on June 7, 2014 and has seriously changed the game for big business and developers. With this container orchestration tool, administrators can easily (relatively speaking) deploy at-scale containers to clusters. With the addition of a few extra tools such as Helm and Terraform, it is possible to automate your CI/CD pipeline. In fact, without Kubernetes, Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery would be a pipe dream for most businesses. Kubernetes has had a profound effect on enterprise-level businesses and those that develop for them.

SEE: 2010s–The Decade in Review (ZDNet Special Feature)


Let’s take it down a notch or two with a brief detour to the Linux desktop. Although some would argue that there are far better desktop environments, on April 6, 2011, GNOME 3 changed the game. This was the first time a popular Linux DE made a drastic shift to the popular desktop metaphor. Instead of the usual panel, main menu, system tray, etc., the GNOME developers opted to take a completely different approach—one that would not only be more efficient, but was touch-screen friendly, elegant, and unique. The GNOME team received a ton of flack for this change, but they stuck it out. Indirectly, it was the release of GNOME 3 that inspired the likes of Cinnamon and MATE, as well as Deepin Desktop. So even if you don’t like it, chances are the desktop you are using has benefited from GNOME 3.

SEE: Decade in Review 2010 – 2019 (CNET)

The cloud

This one is a bit nebulous. Although the idea of cloud computing is believed to have been invented way back in the 1960s, the past decade has seen a massive rise in what the cloud can do. No other technology is nearly as responsible for the cloud as open source. Without the likes of Kubernetes, Docker, Ubuntu Server, RHEL, and SLES, the cloud wouldn’t be nearly what it is today. Open source owns the cloud, and that’s not going to change.

It was around 2016 that the cloud began to completely dominate IT market segments. Thanks to open source technology, today we have tools like Nextcloud making it possible for small to large businesses to have their own private, in-house cloud platforms. Imagine the IT landscape without the cloud? Not a pretty picture at the moment. The next time you see an open source developer, thank her for the cloud as we know it.

SEE: Cloud Computing: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Chrome OS

And speaking of the cloud, let’s talk Chrome OS. When the Google platform was released on June 15, 2011, there was much skepticism–after all, what good was a laptop that wouldn’t function without an internet connection? That was then. Now you probably can’t imagine not having an internet connection 24/7. But our always-connected society isn’t the reason Chrome OS is still popular. Chrome OS is still widely used because of its speed, simplicity, reliability, and security.

Chromebooks are, hands down, one of the simplest platforms on the market. Even the out-of-box experience cannot be beat. As any IT admin will attest, giving a Chromebook to a family member ensures you won’t have to constantly be suffering under the weight of guilt-driven tech support.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Yes, the concept of IoT came into being before the 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that IoT evolved into an ecosystem comprised of multiple technologies from the internet to Wi-Fi, to micro-electromechanical systems, to embedded systems. Open source is at the very core of IoT devices. Why? Two words: Linux kernel. Because the Linux kernel can be stripped down to a bare minimum of services and software, it’s perfect for embedded devices. But, it’s not just the Linux kernel driving IoT–there are plenty of open source tools driving IoT. Tools like Kinoma, ARM Mbed, Snappy Core, Node-Red, IOtivity, and DSA all help to make IoT possible. But without that Linux kernel, IoT wouldn’t be what it is today.


We head back to the desktop with LibreOffice. Although OpenOffice (which was originally StarOffice) was one of the first full-blown open source office suites, it wound up falling far enough behind as to become irrelevant. That’s when on January 25, 2011 LibreOffice came into being to offer up an open source office suite that could hang with the best of them and innovate quickly and reliably. Although, even if LibreOffice went away, there would still be plenty of options remaining (such as KOffice), but there wouldn’t be one that held so true to the ethos of open source, while still being a viable option for the world of business. Without LibreOffice, Linux users would be relegated to Google Docs and Office 365 for business collaboration.

Firefox Quantum

It seemed Firefox was doomed to burn out and fade away–it was buggy, bulky, and burdened with a serious lack of speed. This changed on November 14, 2017 when Mozilla announced Firefox Quantum (now just Firefox), stating it was over twice as fast as previous iterations of their browser. Quantum was the biggest update since the initial launch of Firefox. With the promise of less memory consumption, Firefox Quantum burst out of the gate an instant hit. Mozilla saved its browser from extinction and is now the number two browser in use today–number one is Google Chrome and number three is Internet Explorer.

Honorable mention: Node.js

Even though it doesn’t make fit the 2010-2019 timeframe for TechRepublic’s Decade in Review series, Node.js deserves a mention.

SEE: Node.js JavaScript vs PHP: Which programming language is winning over developers? (TechRepublic)

Released on May 27, 2009, Node.js is an open source, cross-platform, JavaScript runtime environment capable of executing JavaScript outside of a browser—aka “JavaScript everywhere.” What makes Node.jsJS so important is that it helps developers be more productive. How? It makes building real-time apps incredibly fast; it, makes coding in JavaScript for both client and server possible; it bridges the gap between front-end and back-end developers, and more. Node.jsJS is the perfect language for microservices and executes faster than any other language.