Twenty-five years ago today via a short Usenet post, Linus Torvalds shared the first iteration of a free, hobby operating system that he had developed. Of course, what became known as Linux is now far, far more than a hobbyist’s OS and spawned a wave of innovation that significantly changed the IT landscape. While Linux is the poster child, open source is also about far more than an operating system (although it remains critically important!). The underpinnings of open source, from transparency and collaboration to freedom and broad dissemination, have spilled out well beyond the confines of enterprise technology to greatly impact both the world of consumer technology as well as the global business climate at large.
We’ve picked out 25 things that we think are better thanks to Linux and open source; some of these may not exist without an open source backbone, while others may have evolved out of necessity, but would likely be unrecognizable to today’s counterparts. So what made our list?
- Real-time trading - We take near-simultaneous financial transactions almost for granted, as being able to move money, make stock trades and conduct other financial transactions is functionally an on-demand service. But all of this would likely not be possible without the real-time functionality of the Linux kernel, which powers more than 50 percent of the world’s financial transactions and backs 100 percent of Fortune 500 banks.
- The global technology economy - Linux and other open source projects built on top of it have helped to drive the a standardization of IT, allowing for more interoperability across the world’s business environment. Via a common “language of IT,” services and software are better able to grow and evolve across traditional geographical boundaries, fostering a truly global technology marketplace.
- Government IT - Driven by the price efficiencies, innovation and scalability of first Linux and then open source at large, government agencies have a rich history in open source and are now driving towards becoming models of open source efficiency. Most recently, the U.S. federal government’s Second Open Government National Action Plan (pdf) emphasized use of open source, and contribution back to open source communities to help foster innovation and lower costs.
- Connected cities - Networking the critical aspects of a city, from manhole covers and traffic lights to emergency services and severe weather alerts, requires computing at a massive scale. It’s Linux, not a proprietary operating system, that provides this vast scalability while also offering the underlying capabilities to abstract the various computing layers to make managing such a complex deployment manageable.
- Air traffic control - The Federal Aviation Administration, the point of truth for North American aviation management, oversees nearly 24,000 flights per day...and it’s all run on the scalable, secure platform of Linux.