In development communities, software-as-a-service is all the rage among entrepreneurs — for good reason, too. In 2016 the software-as-a-service and cloud services market is expected to grow by 18 percent in 2017.
This follows several years of growth in the mid-teens percentages. However, another category within the software industry has been critically under-covered in tech publications and is proving to be a uniquely disruptive force in 2017. I am talking about open source entrepreneurship.
Open source software refers to software that’s code is publically available, legally. The practice has been around for decades. Typically, open source software was a community passion project and used less often by businesses seeking to protect their intellectual property.
Coders and entire communities would come together to optimize code, add features, and drum up interest in the project. The basic idea is that the community as a whole benefits from the interactivity and sharing between the members of that community, who work together to improve the software.
While the power of open source software is easily identified, the projects often lack the professional polish and usability to make them viable for business applications. However, that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t harness the power of open source for their own benefit. More often, entrepreneurs are embracing the principles and collaborative elements of open source development to help them improve their own business. There are many benefits to this approach:
Some well-known brands have been engaging in open source entrepreneurship for decades. Wordpress, a content management system that currently powers more than 28% of all websites on the web, is an open source project.
The open source environment has resulted in a very collaborative community that actively develops new components and extendable features for the software. Today, there are more than 50,000 WordPress plugins available for download, extending the functionality of the core offering.
Another popular example of open source entrepreneurship is the operating system Linux. Linux got its start as an open source project in 1991, started by Linus Torvalds. The project started as a few basic C files, and by 2015 the core project had grown to more than 18 million lines of source code. Additionally, the Linux development community has created differing versions of the software, known as Distributions.
To date, there have been more than 700 different Linux distributions released the public. This is a great example of the power of open source software that is embraced by its community.
A more recent example of open source entrepreneurship comes from Bit. Bit is an open source project that enables developers to easily share components and parts from their existing source code with others on their team or the community, and use them across projects.
The Bit community hub (BitSrc) is where developers can discover and share React, Node.js and other open-source components written by others across the world.
In short, open source entrepreneurship allows companies to launch faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost than businesses that do not embrace open source principles.
It provides a foundation of resources that would ordinarily take months or years for businesses to develop internally. Additionally, leveraging the community to troubleshoot and solve complicated issues can lessen the load on internal testing teams.
Embracing open source is a new, unique way to approach entrepreneurship but is a choice that we will see many companies making in the future.
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