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Open source secrets laid bare

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Ever since computer programmers began collaborating online to build software applications, the "open source" movement has been developing into a serious rival to the multinational software companies. Since the term was coined in the late 1990s, open source has rapidly matured from an egalitarian approach to software design into a movement whose practices underpin the internet. More recently, it has begun to represent the seed of an ideology, whose approach to openness and sharing is spilling over into the wider world.

The term open source is used to describe software that is "open" for modification. It does this by making the "source" code -- the stuff programmers need to read before a computer program is converted into binary -- available for other programmers to develop. This form of software development was the norm until the late 1960s. Conversely, the proprietary software produced by big corporations rarely does this. Its owners prefer to ship "closed" binary-only versions, which are much more difficult for programmers to read, redevelop and redistribute without the permission of the owners.

Even if you are unaware of Linux, the groundbreaking open source operating system, it is likely you daily use open source software.

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