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O'Reilly Network: Open Source: The Model for Collaboration in the Age of the Internet

Apr 16, 2000, 21:14 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tim O'Reilly)

"Much of the role of open source in the development of the Internet is well known: The most widely used TCP/IP protocol implementation was developed as part of Berkeley networking; Bind runs the DNS, without which none of the web sites we depend on would be reachable; sendmail is the heart of the Internet e-mail backbone; Apache is the dominant web server; Perl the dominant language for creating dynamic sites, etc. etc...."

"I'd like to argue that open source is the "natural language" of a networked community, that the growth of the Internet and the growth of open source are interconnected by more than happenstance. As individuals found ways to communicate through highly leveraged network channels, they were able to share information at a new pace and a new level. Just as the spread of literacy in the late middle ages disenfranchised old power structures and led to the flowering of the renaissance, it's been the ability of individuals to share knowledge outside the normal channels that has led to our current explosion of innovation. Just as ease of travel helped new ideas to spread, wide area networking has allowed ideas to spread and take root in new ways. Open source is ultimately about communication...."

"If you believe me that open source is about Internet-enabled collaboration, rather than just about a particular style of software license, you'll open a much larger tent. You'll see the threads that tie together not just traditional open source projects, but also collaborative "computing grid" projects like SETIAtHome, user reviews on Amazon.com, technologies like collaborative filtering, new ideas about marketing such as those expressed in The Cluetrain Manifesto, weblogs, and the way that Internet message boards can now move the stock market. What started out as a software development methodology is increasingly becoming a facet of every field, as network enabled conversations become a principal carrier of new ideas."

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