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Sunday, December 19, 2010

When open means innovation

Openess applied to software initially had a very specific meaning: open computer programs and languages are those that can run within a variety of environments and interoperability, which means they can exchange data with other software.
They must also adhere to open standards, a term that is generally understood to refer to two related ideas: that the software should be free for use, and its source, or underlying, code should in some manner be defined by its community of developers and users. The operating system Linux is the best-known open software.
The Windows operating system, by contrast, is closed, or “proprietary,”in the jargon of information technology: it is not portable and possesses limited interoperability.
Although elements of Windows adhere to open standards, the program must be licensed, usually for a fee, and its source code has been compiled and hidden from users and developers outside Microsoft.
Developers write to application programming interfaces, or APIs, which until last year were mostly closed, and which still Microsoft jealously guards.
Ever since the emergence of the Web, whose multitudinous pages are themselves created with open standards, information technology has tended to become more and more open.
Increasingly, software companies stress their openness.
Often, this is mere marketing.
Sun Microsystems’ Java platform, widely used to create software for devices as different as embedded systems and supercomputers, has been portable and interoperable since it was launched, but the heart of its source code was released only in 2007. Most technologists want their software to be open, because openness attracts innovation.
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