How much open source software we really use?

You might have guessed from last blog that I love free and open source software. Let me tell you that you are absolute correct. When I think about the journey of free software/open source, I feel  mesmerized about it. I bet you will feel the same, when you realize how a revolution started by a single person named Richard Matthew Stallman (yes we call it free software revolution, now sets rule and standard for technology.
It is not an over statement but a fact. The story so far has been incredible. The journey is about how an idea of free software has changed our world. The saying “you can’t stop an idea whose time has come” thats hold true for free software/open source software in current context.
I will talk about this revolution in my future blogs for sure. But I am here to talk about a very basic question.

Before you go further you should know that in free software, the “free” word means freedom, not free goods (like it would be available to you for free) but it should be read as freedom. So when you read free software, you should read freedom software.

In my last post I talked about open source software/Free software and how good it is for our society and for our freedom.I think some of you have liked the idea and appreciate it.

As of now its not a new concept, there are thousands  of open source software Oh wait! let me correct , millions of open source software currently being used or being developed . Interesting isn’t it? Take a look at github[1], a code hosting/sharing website mainly used for open source community projects. As per latest stats[2] it hosts more than 6 million projects and most of the projects are open source projects. Github[1] is based on a software git[3] which is again an open source software.

So “How much open source software we really use?” or “What is the reach of open source projects other than Linux, Mozzila Firefox and Android?”. Some of you might have thought of this question. Lets discuss about it.

How many of you have used wikipedia? or Have you ever used wikipedia? You must be thinking I am joking, right ? .The answer is we use wikipedia everyday. It is a inevitable part of today’s internet. Anybody who has  used internet some time or used internet to get some information must have used wikipedia. Wikipedia is not just a simple website. It is worlds biggest encyclopaedia. You can find information about any topic in it.Millions of people access it every day, millions of pages get updated every day. The web application which is used for wikipedia is called “MediaWiki” [4][5] and it is developed by Wiki foundation. You might have already guessed it, “MediaWiki” is a open source project. You can get the source code for wikipedia and deploy it in your home or office and create a small wikipedia for your self. You can put articles in to it and it would behave just like wikipedia does. Awesome isn’t it? Many organisation love to have a local wikipedia for their company related knowledge base and they can just deploy wikipedia. They don’t have to develop a software for it. Even if they develop, there is no guarantee that it would be as good as wikipedia and it takes  hell lot of time to fully develop a web application like wikipedia.

In my engineering days we used to see lots of movies (which I think is true for majority of engineering students ;)), which were of different video formats. We sometimes can’t play some of the formats in Windows media player (that time it was Windows XP, not sure how it is in Windows 8). So we rely on “vlc”[6] media player to play the files. It was the de-facto media player for everybody using Windows. When ever we format our PC, vlc player is one of the first software we install on a priority basis on that machine. I used to get amazed how vlc is able to run any video format we throw at it  without any hiccup. I didn’t get an answer that time. Now I know the answer. Because it is a open source project and developed by a community , not by any particular company. People from all over world contributes to vlc development.So if you are an engineering student and have interest in video encoding and want to play with media streaming technology, you can get the source code for vlc, hack the code, know more about media streaming technology, if you have some ideas for improvement you can play around with the code with your ideas. That means if you want some improvement in the media player, you dont have to develop it from scratch but you can just put the necessary code and you are done :).  It would be your contribution to the the development of vlc. Of course you will not be paid for it, but you will get a satisfaction for contributing to vlc player which is being used by billions of people on earth. How good is that? For me nothing can be compared to the satisfaction of doing something which will benefit billions of people.  Now take a pause and think about it. It is a simple video application but the example it is setting has tremendous impact. We can apply the same idea  to almost every aspect of social life. We can  solve problems by coming together where we all can contribute to something what we are good at and solve bigger problems. There are other open source media player other than vlc and I have just taken vlc as an example

Lets talk about wordpress, on which my current blog is. WordPress is now world’s leading blogging website. Millions of people write blogs everyday in wordpress and it is pretty good website for writing a blog. WordPress is also a very profitable company. Its revenue is improving every year .If we take count of future of internet, smart phone penetration, its financial future looks very bright. WordPress is also a open source project and you can find the source code at If you are a web developer and want to know about the engineering work and want to take a look in to the code, you are most welcome. You can deploy wordpress instance at your home, office or anywhere you want. It follows a community development model and you can also contribute to wordpress development.

There is another software which I want to talk about. Thats google chrome browser. Chrome has very quickly became favourite browser of lots of people. You might have noticed the pace of chrome browser growth. So how did they develop Chrome in such a pace? It is an interesting  story. Lets begin :). It started with CromeOS. Google being a dominant web company wanted to develop a web based operating system. The OS would use cloud technologies. The applications will be accessed through a browser. That means users dont have to update the applications and operating system. It would be taken care of by Google. Regarding the computing power, it needs less power as it needs to just run a browser. Chrome OS is very important for  Google’s future plans as we expect the world will move to cloud based technologies. So they wanted to have a browser which will be used for Chrome OS. Also a good browser was needed for Android eco-system. Like every company they wanted it fast. They had a choice to develop a browser from scratch, but they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel as there are open source browsers available and it would have taken a lot of time for developing it from scratch. Eventually they used existing opensource modules/frameworks for building a web browser and started a project named chromium. Chromium follows a community development model and it is an open source project. Google does some more testing on chromium browser, packages it for various operating systems and gives you as Chrome browser. The initial versions of Chrome OS has been released and and Chrome browser is integral part of it. According to recent reports Chrome OS based laptops topped Amazon’s chart as best selling laptops for 119 days in 2012. It is an achievement given that the OS is at its initial days and  not yet reached its full potential.

Now just take a step back and think all this with open source operating system Linux which powers website like google search , facebook, Linkdin, Twitter , your favourite browsers like firefox, Chrome, your favourite mobile operating system Android, wikipedia, vlc like players and many more. If you have seen the video I have posted with my last post, you know that 90% of world’s supercomputer run Linux. These supercomputers are being used for analysis of satellites data, weather forecast, genome mapping  project, research on the climate and global warming, molecular modelling, solving complex mathematical problems for scientific research , military research and applications. How do you feel about the question when we started the discussion. Yup, it is touching our life one way or the other.

Before concluding the discussion I wanted to tell , if you deal with programming tasks, then will love to know that most of your favourite programming language are open source :).
May be you haven’t realized that before. I am giving some examples of open source Programming language and databases.







Postgres SQL and many more 🙂







4 thoughts on “How much open source software we really use?

  1. Pingback: Does open source/community model is the better way? | Free Software, Open Source And My Life Around That

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