The ability for communities to work across the Internet and the enthusiasm of engineers to work with such an exciting new medium, has given rise to an almost unique phenomenon. A world-wide community of individuals and commercial organisations developing cost-free software that is often superior to and ahead of commercially developed software.
The software is called Open Source as anyone can see or modify the source code. The drivers for this software development are both aesthetic and commercial. Many Open Source projects have arisen simply because the available commercial software was inadequate
or was poorly engineered. As a result organisations looking for a particular software solution have funded Open Source projects. E.g. Intel and Nokia. Commercial companies now provide support for Open Source software gaining their revenues from installation and support. E.g. RedHat supporting Linux, Sun Microsystems supporting MySQL and Java.
As Open Source code can be read by anyone the software is generally less bug-ridden and more reliable. “Given enough eye-balls all bugs are shallow”. Because Open Source software is not developed to a formal project life-cycle any bugs that are found are fixed quickly and not at the end of the project life-cycle. Without heavy corporate advertising and marketing budgets Open Source software gains market share simply because it works, and works well. Such is the momentum of the Open Source community that now Microsoft have commenced Open Source projects.
Open Source software is used worldwide by small and large organisations. Most websites are hosted on servers using the Open Source Linux operating system and Apache web server. National and local governments, financial, commercial and educational establishments across the World use Open Source software as do household names such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook.