Nearly invisible, it's a deceptively simple idea with profound consequences impacting everything from what Operating Systems we use to hardware configurations...even how we write our own code and budget our projects.
In its purest form, free software is nothing more than what any scientist should always have, access to the source material, notes and the data of our peers and predecessors. All the beauty and knowledge contained in the working documents. This is how we stand on the shoulders of giants so as to see beyond our current horizons. Someday if we stand tall enough we may lend our own shoulders to those that join the great work.
However, in the darkest times such open collaboration can incite economic war. Those that value market control through product push and commodity code can rally against programming as a craft and service; dividing sister against brother, sorceress against wizard. Trivializing the source in a reductionist alchemy that turns programs into gold and programmers into lead. Some call it Closedsource, I call it Deadware.
If software were music then imagine being a record label that didn't have to pay royalties to the bands that make the records. An industry where often musician, singer, and song writer are afforded no ownership of anything produced, no piece of the profit and no credit for the creation. It's been tried before and when taken to extreme the consequence is always stagnation of creative output. Eventually the talent pool dries up like an over fished river.
This is the software market as typically envisioned in the late 70's and it's what followed for the nearly 30 years of corporate monopoly that defined the 80's, 90's and 2000's. A yearly recycling program of interns and script kiddies. Fortune 500's hiding behind a backroom anti-poaching deal; robbing their employees of their right to fair negotiation and thus suppress wages while their companies raked in billions. IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, they seemed untouchable.
Yet today we look around and all we see are Opensource ecosystems dominating the tech landscape. HTML5 reigns supreme across worlds while Android is pummeling iOS in the gardens. Microsoft has receded into irrelevance, buried under 3 Surfaces. How did free software break the 30 year monopoly and tip the market's appetite back toward innovation?
I think the answer is in the diversity of today's technology ecosystem crashing into the cloud. An Opensource cloud is just better suited to the wide variety of platforms and devices available now from a production cost perspective. Smart developers find a way to manage their programs on as many devices as possible. This dilutes risk and increases the chance of finding a core audience.
Since it's almost always going to be cheaper to develop a single code set that works broadly, something that's quite natural for an Opensource project, experienced programmers are now finally in the sweet spot of appreciation. Embracing the cloud approach aligns the interests of the company with the developer in a way that improves both.
Now is the time to get into programming, never before have programmers had so much opportunity to join the conversation and benefit from that participation. The age of MCP has ended, job security AND skill growth are within reach. Program the next digital revolution.