A sagely guru by the name of Yogi Berra imparted some words of wisdom that I periodically revisit: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, while in practice there is.” Though intended for comedic effect, it rings true (as all good comedy does).
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in what we believe something to be, or should be, that we mistake it for reality. The more invested one is in a theory; the closer theory and practice can appear.
For its many devotees, open-source software is a paradigm of unparalleled beauty. Chief among its charms is that open-source software is of, by, and for the community. This is why large, traditional proprietary software companies assumed their battle stations when open source appeared on the radar: if users could collaborate to make their own software, who would pay money for theirs?
Roughly 30 years later, open source did not lay the tech giants low, as they feared. It played out that way because, after seeing what open source could do, rather than distancing themselves from it, many traditional tech powers lined up to grab a piece of the open-source pie. The cozying up didn’t happen all at once, but brick by brick, open source rose from a foundation to a towering evidence.
So why am I discussing this now? Not to dispense an open-source history lesson — there are plenty of those — but to discern the locus open source has reached, and extrapolate its trajectory from here, in light of recent indicative developments.