Yesterday, I was thinking about Linux and a thought crossed my mind: “Where would I be without Linux?” Then an even scarier thought flitted across my brain: “Where would WE be without Open Source?” This question buzzed through my head and I started ticking off all of the projects we would not have in the IT space:

  • Linux
  • OS X
  • iPod
  • Apache
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Ruby On Rails
  • Google Code
  • SSH
  • Wikipedia
  • Buzilla
  • Firefox
  • OpenOffice

The list goes on. But it doesn’t end at software. There are open source hardware projects, open vehicles, open politics. Open source has influenced so many people on so many levels. But let’s just look at it from the geekier perspective. Imagine your day to day life without open source.

Imagine all of your servers were either Microsoft or Netscape servers. Imagine you were having to code all of your sites with a proprietary language or, worse yet, using a closed-source application like Dreamweaver. Imagine Web 2.0 never came to be. Imagine having to pay out for every single Web service and/or application you created for your company. Imagine the cost of security and the sum total of your businesses network. Imagine the Google Cloud never came to be. Imagine the Beowulf clusters never existed. Imagine no technology ever threatened the Microsoft monopoly. One Laptop Per Child????

It’s a pretty daunting short list of possibilities. But ultimately, what it points out is that open source technology has, more so than Microsoft, helped technology become what it has become today. I do not negate the fact that Microsoft brought the PC to the home. But I personally can not imagine how that PC would be today without the community-driven push of open source. And what about my PC life without open source? And this goes beyond having to actually pay for software. This very idea quickly takes a dive into the question, “Would technology A even exist?” I use Wiki all of the time. I use Xoops and Joomla on a daily basis. I can’t imagine what would have come into existence to serve the same purpose as those three technologies (and how much they would cost.) Would there be an equivalent technology had they never been developed?

As yourself these questions:

Would proprietary, closed software have any reason to evolve without the threat of open source?

Would technology have grown as quickly without open source pushing it along?

Would your job be as easy without open source?

Would your network be as safe without open source?

Would your business be able to expand as easily without open source?

Would your developers work as quickly without open source?

I know there are a lot of pundits out there who bemoan open source software and the very ideology behind it. But how strong would the moans of the nay sayers be when the only technology they had to focus on was a proprietary model that didn’t have open source challenging it from every angle?

I am confident that open source is the most powerful driving force behind technology. And without open source we would be living in software and hardware dark ages.