The future of open source: 3 discoveries

While participation in the open source community is high, users worry about inclusivity and the role of big tech in the future open source landscape, DigitalOcean found.

The key to open source sustainability is good old-fashioned self-interest Don't look to donations to solve open source maintainers' money woes. They just need to be connected to the companies that need them to make a buck.

The majority (60%) of tech professionals said their involvement in open source has increased for three key reasons: They enjoyed it, they wanted to learn new skills, or they found their contributions fulfilling, a DigitalOcean report found. The popularity of open source isn't a huge surprise, since the market for open source is forecasted to exceed $32 billion by 2023, according to the report. 

DigitalOcean's seventh annual Currents report surveyed 5,800 developers worldwide to determine how they felt about the current and future state of the open source community. Overall, users are optimistic about the future of open source, but some do have concerns, the report found. 

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Open source refers to an online project that is publicly accessible for anyone to modify and share, as long as they provide attribution to the original developer, reported TechRepublic contributor Jack Wallen in What is open source?.
 
Since its release over 20 years ago, open source has changed the internet. Without open source, the online experience would be "a far different place; much more limited, expensive, less robust, less feature-driven and less scalable. Big name companies would be much less powerful and successful as well in the absence of open source software," wrote Scott Matteson in How to decide if open source or proprietary software solutions are best for your business

Looking forward, open source will remain a dominant force, but it may change to acquiesce developer concerns, the report found. 

Open source's future

1. Open source sustainability

Developers enjoy open source, and the overwhelming majority (84%) are optimistic about its future. Some 64% also believe that open source technology is sustainable, because of its dedicated community and large organization-sponsored projects, the report found. 

However, 4% disagreed, citing lack of funding as the main reason. As for the community aspect, many developers had opposing viewpoints too. 

2. The community  

While more than half (58%) of respondents said they found the open source community friendly overall, the community could improve on inclusivity, the report found. 

Some 25% of women and 11% of men rated the diversity of the open source community as poor or quite poor, and 75% of women and 58% of men rated diversity as being of the utmost importance. This disparity between genders reveals that one group may feel more excluded than another. 

Additionally, the open source community appears to be less inclusive for older generations. Nearly 60% of respondents over the age of 45 said they felt excluded by the community because of negative interactions, while only 23% of respondents under the age of 25 said the same. 

As the open source community evolves and grows in the future, the community should recognize and prioritize diversity and inclusion for all developers, according to the report. 

3. Big tech's influence 

Major tech companies have set their sights on open source development, with Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub and IBM's acquisition of Red Hat. However, developers are concerned about the impact these tech giants could have on the open source community, the report found. 

Nearly 41% of respondents said they were concerned about the level of involvement from major tech players in open source. The main concerns they cited involved possible self-serving intentions from big companies, the use of restrictive licenses that give large organizations unfair competitive advantage, and overall trust of large corporations, the report found. 

Across the board, less than half of respondents described the involvement of Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Apple in open source as extremely friendly or even somewhat friendly, according to the report. 

Most of the respondents for the survey were Indian, and this demographic was most concerned about the involvement of big tech. More than half (51%) were worried about how big tech companies would impact the open source community, the report found. 
 
For more, check out Enterprise vendors increasingly dominate the open source software scene on ZDNet. 

Also see 

Open Source

Open Source

Image: Ildo Frazao, Getty Images/iStockphoto