Why we still love open source

Open source is the medium of choice for the world's most creative developers, as shown in InfoWorld's 2011 Best of Open Source Software Awards

It's easy to make the argument that open source ain't what it used to be. In the essay accompanying this year's Bossie (Best of Open Source Software) Awards, InfoWorld contributing editor Peter Wayner nails it: Aggressive patent and copyright enforcement are inflicting damage on real openness and community-driven software development. And in desperate pursuit of revenue, both independent ISVs and big software players can make it hard to distinguish between demo versions and open source distributions.

So why do we still love open source? Because, more than ever, it's the epicenter of software innovation.

[ Take a stroll through InfoWorld's 2011 Bossie Awards to find the best open source software. | Also on InfoWorld: The greatest open source software of all time | Follow the latest open source developments with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

Just take a look at this year's Bossie Award winners, beginning with Android. We gave Android a Bossie this year despite the proviso that hardware manufacturers get Google's approval first before they use the Android brand. After all, Android source code is available under an Apache license, and we can only hope Google fends off legal challenges from Oracle and, potentially, Apple. If you ask me, only an open platform can foster the kind of inventive mindstorm that swirls around Android, from dozens of tablets to hundreds of thousands of apps.

On the app dev side, open source has dominated for years. The hot scripting languages and the Eclipse IDE are all open source, of course, as is Git, the phenomenally popular version control system that won a Bossie for the third time this year. But the innovation keeps coming. The trendy JavaScript framework Node.js, which opens up server-side programming to hordes of client-side code slingers, earned its first Bossie this year. And although it was too late for Bossie consideration, keep your eye on Opa, the new open source language that InfoWorld's Neil McAllister believes may transform Web development.

Is there any area of technology more exciting than big data? For the third year in a row we awarded a Bossie to Apache Hadoop, the distributed processing framework for unstructured data. And based on our recent comparative review of NoSQL databases, we handed MongoDB the Bossie.

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