ABSTRACT

 

From its origins as an MIT-based hackers' pastime in the 1970s, the open-source movement has become an important force in computing today. Its ideals have shaped the minds of thousands of programmers, of whom many are now highly influential. Richard Stallman's GNU and Linus Torvald's Linux, for instance, are known to professionals around the world. In fact, In May 1999, Red Hat CEO Bob Young went so far as to say "The revolution is over, and the revolutionaries won," under the ovation of Linux users.

While the open-source movement has not yet overhauled mainstream software, it has definitely had its effect. The debate rests on the issue of innovation and growth.

Cyberlibertarians like John Perry Barlow maintain that software evolves quicker when all programmers are allowed to see the source. Opponents, including giants like Microsoft, affirm this will drain the economic incentive to produce software and lead to anarchy. What are the arguments for and against both these positions and how can they be conciliated?

The ultimate question is not just whether a centralized or a decentralized model of development is better. It is an issue concerning the entire stricture of the software industry, currently valued at $100 billion and growing every day. Having an open-source Windows, for instance, could radically change business and how we think of software.