What happens to all that great technology development in the IoT (Internet of Things) when an open-source project is abandoned? There is no question that today open source is one of the top tech trends driving the world markets.
The core idea behind open source is that a group of people developing in tandem—that is, sharing their ideas, their code, their creativity, and their best practices with each other—can come up with better software solutions more quickly than any one individual working alone.
The concept is instead of an individual trying to tackle a problem, a group of people banding together. The group of people lend input and provide different insight to a vexing problem. This is the vision behind the open-source model.
Nasdaq says using an open-source model, companies can accelerate innovation, lower costs, and attract the next generation of workers who are increasingly interested in contributing to the greater good. This past year was actually a very big year for the open-source space and it looks like 2019 will be just as strong.
Here’s just one example of a project that kicked off this past January. America Makes, a national accelerator for additive manufacturing, recently announced it is awarding GE Global Research $2.6 million in funding to develop an open-source, multi-laser manufacturing machine and research platform.
The platform will address immediate and critical needs within the U.S. Air Force and Defense industry. This is a good example of how open source is bringing people together to address real-world problems.
The OpenChain Project’s goal is to make open-source license compliance simpler and more consistent. Microsoft is just the latest “big dog” to join the project as a member. Facebook, Google, and Uber have also recently joined. Standards and best practices will only help open source grow.
Trust is such an important component to open source. All of these big companies working toward a set of standards are paving the way for a future in which more trust will be achieved.
But even the largest of companies abandon what we might consider the best technology. So back to the original question: what happens if an open-source project dies or is abandoned?
The nature of open source is that users can view, change, and distribute source code as necessary or desired. Based on this approach, most open-source projects never truly “die.”
If the original developer or developers move on, effectively “abandoning” the project, others are free to take the reins and keep it going. This is actually one of the great strengths of open source—it’s not necessarily relying on one person, one group, or one company to keep it going.
By contrast, if a company that offers proprietary software goes out of business, the source code could fall by the wayside along with the doomed company. But, in truth, if an original developer abandons a project, or passes away, it can cause trouble if the creator is the only person who really understands parts of the code.
Look at what happened to Heartbleed. In 2014, everyone saw what could happen when the group in charge of vetting open-source code doesn’t have the time or resources to keep up with it, and then all the sudden a lot of people are facing security vulnerabilities.
It could be argued that without a dedicated team of paid professionals taking ownership of something, neglect can lead to oversight, which will create problems. However, with the power of open source, it appears we need to be talking about how we can responsibly maintain open-source projects.
A great resource for managing the lifecycle of an open-source project is from the Linux Foundation, and it’s called the “Open Source Guide.” One strategy to prolonging the life of an open-source project is to seek out a diverse contributor base from the get-go.
If interest is waning and it looks like a project is dead or dying, developers can consider transferring the project to someone else—maybe an individual or another company or organization who is willing and able to maintain it and, hopefully, breath some new life into it in the process.
The real question going forward is what open-source project will you bet on? Which open-source project will lead to advance developments of the best projects? Many questions still remain, which leads us all to ask which open-source project will lead us all to the promise land of IoT has yet to be determined.
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