Open source: The next 20 years

Isaac Murchie
© Shutterstock / raffaelemontillo

As the open source community continues to grow, it’s important that users keep in mind that the people writing software are doing what they can to keep it working and to support it, probably on their own time. In this article, Isaac Murchie, Head of Open Source at Sauce Labs explains where Sauce Labs sees open source heading in the 20 years ahead.

The open source community celebrated a major milestone this year – 20 years of open collaboration. Continuous testing company Sauce Labs – which recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary – has seen much of this software revolution unfold first hand. Sauce Labs provides a continuous testing cloud that allows customers to verify that their desktop and mobile web, as well as mobile native and hybrid, apps work correctly across a wide variety of devices using open source testing protocols Selenium and Appium.

With many reflecting back on the past years and looking out towards the future years to come, I wanted to share why open source testing is so critical to successful software quality and where we at Sauce Labs see open source heading in the 20 years ahead.

The secret sauce on contributing to the open source community

As open source advocates and contributors, Sauce Labs understands the importance of supporting projects, specifically those that we benefit from on a regular basis. We have a small team of developers who work on open source entirely, and encourage people on other teams who have the time to contribute to what they use, because we recognize that the open source ecosystem can only survive if people give back.

If maintenance and development is ignored, software systems will falter and fade. Contributing and giving back to the community is key to the success of open source.

SEE ALSO: Help diagnose open source projects: CodeTriage needs you!

Open source testing is the best foundation for software quality

Over the past decade, open source testing tools have sprung up to revolutionize the world of Quality Assurance (QA) testing. With the strength of community, no vendor lock-in, ability to extend and customize, and cross-platform / -language versatility, it’s no question that open source testing is the best foundation for software quality. Tools like Selenium, Appium, JMeter, JUnit, Robotium, and Selendroid are enabling developers and organizations to better test and ensure quality software. In fact, Selenium is the de-facto standard and industry leader in open source testing, co-developed by the creators of Sauce Labs.

At Sauce Labs, we use open source software across all levels. At the core, we use Selenium and Appium for the actual automating that we do. The service above is written in Python and runs on Linux, and so is open in those ways. It also makes use of open containerization tools as well as open tools for more routine operations (logging, etc.). Additionally, most of the development work is done using open source editors, compilers, etc.

Today, open source testing tools are driving innovation, and are the most mature solutions available. Anyone serious about QA won’t ignore this breed of powerful tools. They have huge global communities supporting them, are built on open standards, are customizable to suit every need, and work on pretty much any platform.

SEE ALSO: Linux is the number one in-demand skill: Open source career trends

The next 20 years of open source

In the future, I expect open source software to maintain, if not broaden, its central role in the broad software ecosystem. Open source will continue to invade domains dominated by proprietary software, with more and more large companies, like Microsoft, investing heavily in open source and releasing both existing and new software under open source licenses. I specifically think, as more software gets consumed as a service rather than as source, it’ll be interesting to see how open source principles keep pace.

Beyond the software ecosystem, open source principles are permeating into other fields: open source hardware is growing rapidly and allowing for an entire ecosystem of hardware development never seen before. Open collaboration in academia is on the rise, enabling researchers in all sorts of fields, not just computer science, to share information in ways that is speeding up discoveries by leaps and bounds.

As the open source community continues to grow, it’s important that users keep in mind that the people writing software are doing what they can to keep it working and to support it, probably on their own time. So, individual use of free open source software does not entitle you to demand the level of support you’d get from a commercial vendor. If you feel strongly enough about the quality of the package, become a committer and help to improve it. With 20 years of open source in the books, it will take effort from the whole community to ensure we can have another successful 20 years and beyond.


Isaac Murchie

Isaac Murchie is the Head of Open Source at Sauce Labs, and is a software engineer, lately mostly writing in JavaScript in the interest of mobile automation. Previously, Isaac was a Senior Software Engineer at Sauce Labs. He is located in New York City, and enjoys drinking coffee and petting his cat.

Follow him on Twitter: @imurchie

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