Beginner
Lesson 21
3 min

What does Open Source mean?

One of the key aspects of Bitcoin and other projects in the cryptocurrency space is the fact that their development takes place in a transparent manner by independent entities.

  • The basic idea behind the term “Open Source” refers to scientists and researchers freely sharing information, including findings on certain topics, in perpetuity 
  • The source code of a specific software is made available to developers and users to modify as they see fit
  • Open Source is a goal-driven and highly pragmatic approach to software development

In this lesson, you will learn the basics on the concept of Open Source.


Bitcoin, for example, does not belong to a single company. It has no CEO or centralised decision-making authority. Instead, Bitcoin is being developed in a collaborative, public manner.

The idea of collaboratively developed and freely distributed software gained traction again with the popularisation of the internet during the 1990s.

The fundamental idea behind Open Source is as old as computing itself. A fairly small community of scientists and engineers share their progress and knowledge freely and openly with each other. However, with the rise of commercial software during the 1970s and 1980s this aspect lost some of its importance.

Still, the idea of collaboratively developed and freely distributed software gained traction again with the popularisation of the internet during the 1990s. These developments led to the

Open Source Initiative, which was founded in 1998 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting open-source software and principles. 

Among other things, these principles include free distribution and public access to an application’s source code. This means that anyone is allowed to download, modify and redistribute software.

Open Source is one of the reasons why projects, which incorporate peer production – like Wikipedia, TEDx and also Bitcoin – are as successful and popular as they are.

What is Open Collaboration?

The success and prominence of the Open Source movement opened the door for a whole new concept of working together. Open Source is one of the reasons why projects which incorporate peer production – like Wikipedia, TEDx and also Bitcoin – are as successful and popular as they are.

While there are usually few hierarchies and only loose ties between the different collaborators in Open Source projects, this kind of work organisation enforces goal-driven and usually very pragmatic approaches. 

Thanks to the fact that anyone is allowed to contribute, open collaboration software projects also attract talented people from all over the world, yielding creativity, innovation and diversity that commercial software cannot.

Another additional key difference is that people who contribute to open source software projects usually do this in their spare time, out of interest and passion about the topic or project they are working on.

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FURTHER READING

BOOKS

  • Eric S. Raymond - The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary
  • Karl Vogel - Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project

LINKS

What is Open Source Software, and Why Does It Matter

Definition of "Open Source"

The WIRED Guide to Open Source Software

Open Source Initiative

Open-source model