October 15, 2012, 10:56 AM — Nearly 15 years since the term "open source" was first applied, the trends driving the open source movement are not the same. Back then, price advantage, direct differentiation on licensing versus proprietary software, adoption-led marketing by innovative entrepreneurs, and market reaction against an ever more abusive monopolist were key factors shaping the direction of open source.
Today's open source movement is more mature, and the trends underlining it are more nuanced and widely engaged. The revolution has had a meaningful impact, and to treat open source as if it is still about saving a few bucks on a software license or socking it to Microsoft is to misunderstand how far the open source movement has come.
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The following five trends are key drivers of today's open source communities and projects. From governance to emerging revenue models, they paint a picture of an industry evolving to see the value of the freedoms at the heart of the open source movement.
1. The rise of open source foundationsFifteen years into the movement, it's clear that no single form of open source governance is ideal. While many successful open source projects share characteristics in the abstract, every approach has its pitfalls and every community faces governance challenges. That stated, two themes summarize the recurring strengths of today's most successful open source projects.
First, while they may appear to be democracies, almost all are not. In nearly every case, the right to have a binding voice in determining outcomes -- by voting or as part of a formal consensus -- is granted to a limited number of community participants on the basis of merit associated with contribution of some kind. This results in a strong, relatively stable core leadership comprising the most favored leaders.