Dries Buytaert on the Future of Open Source

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 25, 2009

Dries Buytaert is the founder and lead of the open source Drupal content management system, which OStatic and many other web sites are based on. He's also the co-founder of Acquia, which offers a commercially supported version of Drupal. Dries is one of the more respected pundits in open source, and we invited him to submit a guest post here at OStatic delivering his thoughts on the future of open source. You'll find his thought-provoking essay here, where he discusses eliminating middlemen, and much more. (Disclosure: Acquia is a sponsor of OStatic.)

Bringing the Power of Open Source to Everyone

By Dries Buytaert

Adoption and usage of open source software is changing. Traditionally, most open source software has been used as part of corporate IT infrastructure. Relegated to data centers, technologies such as Linux, Apache, JBoss, and MySQL have been used on servers, hidden from ordinary people. Users of open source were technical by nature and despite very large developer communities; this has not been software for the “masses.”

However, this landscape is changing very rapidly. Today, Mozilla Firefox has grabbed 20 percent of the worldwide browser market and technologies like Ubuntu and OpenOffice are gaining footholds. Open source projects like Drupal, WordPress and countless others are powering our web experience more than most people recognize. The average person has no idea how much open source software he or she actually touches, often indirectly, in an average day.

There is no reason open source software should be limited to technical users. For a few years now, I’ve been talking about eliminating the middlemen on the web. We have already eliminated the web master. When was the last time you hired a web master to hand-craft your website and content using XHTML and CSS? Today, content creators can input, format and publish their own content themselves. The web master role that we used to know is dead. Publishing tools and content management systems, like Drupal, replaced them. Killed by technology, replaced by scripts.

Next is to eliminate the web developer and to make online publishing even more accessible. At Acquia, our goal is to provide anyone who wants to build a website the tools they need to build the website they want. No restrictions.

This vision is more than say, building a page on Facebook. Applications like Facebook and WordPress are great examples of how web technology can be made more approachable and the impact it can have on many people's lives, but they still impose constraints when building a website. Everyone should be able to build any website at any time, meaning it shouldn't require specialized training or skills.

The values of open source are key to this vision. Because Drupal is open source, Drupal is built by thousands of developers from all over the world -- they all bring a piece to the table, making Drupal a great common platform. It is not about building one specific tool, it is about building a platform, a platform that becomes more rich and powerful thanks to thousands of people that contribute on a daily basis.

The Drupal community is working hard to make website building simpler, more intuitive and less intimidating, while at the same time providing site builders all the flexibility they need. We have a lot of work to do, but I believe that Drupal will be the dominant platform to build websites, and that, like more and more open source applications, it will be accessible to everyone.

This is our vision of open source’s future – what’s yours? Take a moment to fill out the Future of Open Source survey and share your perspective. (Click here to take the survey.) The results will be announced at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) on March 24th–25th at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA.