Eye on IT - Open Source Software out to Dominate?

Article excerpt

Byline: DR IAN GRAHAM

When you access the Internet, chances are that the web server software used by the sites you visit is Apache. Apache is currently the number one web server, with over twice the market share of its next ranked competitor. Statistics on web servers have consistently shown Apache dominating the public Internet web server market ever since April 1996.

The interesting thing about Apache is that it is an Open Source Software/Free Software (OSS/FS) product. Briefly, OSS/FS programs are programs whose licenses give users the freedom to run the program for any purpose, to study and modify the program, and to re-distribute copies of either the original or modified program without having to pay royalties to previous developers. (In this context, free does not mean at no cost. However, OSS/FS products are typically either distributed at no cost or at a much lower cost than their proprietary equivalents).

Probably the most well-known OSS/FS product is Linux. In 1991, Linus Torvalds began developing a small operating system kernel called Linux, at first, primarily for learning about the Intel 80386 chip.

Torvalds stumbled into a development process rather different from traditional approaches by exploiting a community of developers across the Internet. He publicly released new versions extremely often, sometimes more than once a day, allowing quick identification when problems occurred, and he quickly delegated areas to a large group of developers. Instead of depending on rigid standards, rapid feedback on small increments and Darwinian competition were used to increase quality.

When the Linux kernel was combined with operating system components from a project called GNU at MIT, the resulting operating system was surprisingly stable and capable. …