9 Biggest open source stories of 2015

2015 was truly the year of open source!

2015 1
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya
Year of open source

2015 was an extremely good year for open source, in general. Enterprise customers embraced open source at an unprecedented rate. Not only that, arch rivals came together to work on shared technologies like Cloud Foundry and OpenStack. And we saw traditional proprietary companies like Microsoft and Apple release their software as open source. It was an exciting year.

Here are my picks for the top 9 open source stories of the year.

Golden Apple
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya
#1 Apple goes open source

The biggest story of the year goes to Apple, which open sourced their programming language Swift. In the process, Apple's PR team went so far as to call Apple "the first major computer company to make open source a key part of its strategy." This was plainly not true. The open source community pushed back and Apple changed the wording. Still, this is a major story as Swift is a great programming language and it open sourcing it allows developers to use it freely.

Microsoft open
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya
#2 Microsoft goes open source

With the leadership change and new market dynamics, Microsoft started to embrace open source. In a surprising move,  the company open sourced some of its core technologies, including .NET and Visual Studio to get developer mindshare. Both projects are released under the MIT open source license. The company even developed a Linux-based operating system for a networking switch on its Azure cloud.

#3 Fujitsu goes open source

Fujitsu has been using Linux for decades and contributes heavily to many other open source projects, but the company has been very proprietary when it comes to its own software. This year,  the company open sourced its Open Service Catalog Manager cloud management  software. I hope that the company will open source more components in the years ahead.

#4 WordPress goes open source

Automattic, the company behind the open source blogging software WordPress, runs WordPress.com, a ‘blogging as a service’ platform that is used by major publications like TechCrunch. Recently, Automattic reworked the WordPress.com code and released it as an open source project named Calypso. This is the first time WordPress.com code as been released for public consumption under an open source license.

#5 AMD goes open source

AMD and Nvidia are the two GPU giants. These companies support many open source projects, but when it comes to their own software, they keep it locked behind proprietary doors. That is changing.

This year, AMD announced the GPUOpen Initiative under which it will release a "collection of open source effects, tools, libraries and SDKs that are being made available on GitHub under an MIT open source license," writes HotHardware's Marco Chiappetta. This initiative will give developers greater access to AMD’s GPU resources. GPUOne is seen as an open source alternative to Nvidia’s Gameworks.

#6: Google open sources AI

Google isn’t new to open source. The company is known for releasing the source code of both Android and Chrome OS, their Linux-based operating systems. The company also releases a lot of other software as open source.

This year, Google open sourced its artificial intelligence (AI) engine TensorFlow, which the company says "was originally developed by researchers and engineers working on the Google Brain Team within Google's Machine Intelligence research organization for the purposes of conducting machine learning and deep neural networks research, but the system is general enough to be applicable in a wide variety of other domains as well.”

Elon Musk
#7 Elon Musk launches OpenAI

Elon Musk, one of the brightest brains of the PayPal Mafia and founder of SpaceX and Tesla, is not very comfortable with AI. He fears that it can be catastrophic for humans. He, along with many other industry leaders created a non-profit organization called OpenAI that will work on artificial intelligence. The sole purpose of the organization is to create AI that, according to its Wikipedia page, will "benefit, rather than harm, humanity as a whole." They will release all of their patents royalty free as well as encourage their researchers to publicly release results.

#8 GCHQ releases open source software

The British intelligence and security organization Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is known for its surveillance programs and how it dealt with The Guardian in the Edward Snowden case. But like any intelligent government agency they use a lot of open source and work with the open source community. The agency recently released its internal software as an open source project called Gaffer.

The project is released under the Apache Licence. Its GitHub page explains that "Gaffer is a framework that makes it easy to store large-scale graphs in which the nodes and edges have statistics such as counts, histograms and sketches. These statistics summarise the properties of the nodes and edges over time windows, and they can be dynamically updated over time.”

Not a big story, but certainly an interesting one.

Car hack
#9 Hacking your car is now legal

Vehicle manufactures have been using copyright law to restrict users from modifying their vehicles and even hiding flaws in their cars. In a big win for customers, the Librarian of Congress in October allowed the inspection and modification of the software in cars and other vehicles.

The decision has become increasingly important after many car manufacturers, most notably Volkswagen, were found to use software for circumventing emissions testing. The car manufacturers were using copyright laws to stop users from inspecting the software of their own vehicles. Their argument was that customers may ‘tweak’ software to circumvent safety and emissions laws.