How open-source software drives innovation — Lou Shipley

MIT Sloan Lecturer Lou Shipley

MIT Sloan Lecturer Lou Shipley

From the Chicago Tribune

The solitary genius, closeted in a lab or garage, creating the next big thing is largely a myth. Important innovation almost always builds upon what came before it. The automobile would not exist if the horse-drawn carriage had not been invented first. We would not be using laser pointers now if early humans had not fashioned torches in experiments with fire.

The most important example of innovation through knowledge sharing today is the open source software movement. Developers are posting code in online communities across the globe, learning from one another and building on each other’s advances. Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also the best form of innovation.

There are over one million open source projects under development now, and the numbers are increasing 30 to 50 percent a year. And when we talk about projects in this context, we are not referring to small endeavors undertaken by hobbyists. Examples of open source projects include Linux, the Apache Web Server and OpenStack, the cloud operating system.

Major contributions from open source were responsible for the emergence of most of today’s big names of information technology and social media, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Amazon. Apple relied heavily on open source for the development of both iOS and the Safari browser. Open source is driving the major trends in information technology and communications — mobile technology, cloud computing, and Big Data.

Read the full post at the Chicago Tribune.

Lou Shipley is a Lecturer at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at the  MIT Sloan School of Management. He is currently president and CEO of Black Duck Software.

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