Openness In The Cloud Era
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Cloud computing is quickly becoming, or possibly has already become, the de facto way that new applications are developed and deployed. The days of on-premises, device-specific software for the most part, has come to end. Data, and its related APIs, is now the platform of choice for developers. At the forefront of this transition are online tools like the free, open-source hosting platform GitHub, which has become the key method for where and how developers contribute and collaborate in 2013. In many ways, GitHub is the very definition of “openness” within the development world with millions of hackers around the globe actively and openly collaborating with one another.
A recent ReadWrite.com post describes GitHub as “the largest online storage space of collaborative works that exists in the world. Whether you're interested in participating in this global mind-meld or in researching this massive file dump of human knowledge, you need to be here.”
With millions of users and more than $100 million in funding, to say GitHub is a massive success would be putting it mildly. But it does frame a broader question. Does the source "code" matter anymore? Or is it the platform and how we collaborate that matters most? Is the new definition of open source purely the ability to openly share your ideas, be it an App, a written work or something else? Has open source as a concept evolved beyond that of source code into a philosophy on how we share and interact with one another?
My belief is that it has.
For many, the idea of openness, regardless of what form the output takes is the only option. Yet others don’t agree with this point of view. Back in 2008, Nick Carr shared his opinion in a post:
“Don’t assume that “open” systems are attractive to mainstream buyers simply because of their openness. In fact, proprietary systems often better fulfill buyer requirements, particularly in the early stages of a market’s development. As IT analyst James Governor writes in a comment on Macleod’s post, “customers always vote with their feet, and they tend [to] vote for something somewhat proprietary – see Salesforce APEX and iPhone apps for example. Experience always comes before open. Even supposed open standards dorks these days are rushing headlong into the walled garden of gorgeousness we like to call Apple Computers.”
Ultimately, the source code that powers many of today’s most successful platforms is becoming less important than efficient “open access” to these systems. APIs have become the road map to a network of complex and globally dispersed cloud computing environments. What and how you interact with these platforms is quickly taking center stage.
Do I believe open source is still important? Certainly, but I also believe that openness must apply to more than just the source code.