Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) is like an invisible keystone in the collosus that is the internet. Thousands of developers, engineers, designers and other experts offer up their free time for what can often be a thankless task.
However, FOSS powers pretty much everything you see in applications from websites, to mobile apps, to internal software used by small companies and international corporations alike.
In recent times, it’s become a more controversial issue, especially how FOSS is used by corporations generating billions in revenue while its developers often languish in relative poverty.
How is FOSS used?
Every programming language and ecosystem has package managers. Some of the well-known ones include Packagist, NPM, Homebrew, Apt, Pip et al. These package managers host tens of thousands of
packages which fulfill common tasks required by programmers. Some might be as simple as telling you if a number is odd or even, whereas others might offer full-blown frameworks for building applications (e.g. Quasar and Nuxt in the Vue ecosystem).
The most common licence for FOSS, the MIT licence, allows anyone to use, modify and redistribute this software in both personal and commercial projects without even so much as an acknowledgement (although they’re always appreciated).
What's the controversy?
The example from the intro, about corporations profiting from using FOSS while its developers struggle to get by is an increasingly common one. While some FOSS is made by corporations themselves (e.g. React is a Meta project), a lot of it is made by lone developers in their free time.
Obviously they chose to release it with licence terms that allows commercial use without renumeration or acknowledgement – indeed it’s likely that companies would be less likely to use it were this not the case – it’s still a point of ethical contention.
With a small number of developers responsible for FOSS which powers so much, things can often go horribly wrong. Back in 2022, one such developer purposefully sabotaged his own project and brought a large chunk of the internet to its knees. A more recent case saw a FOSS maintainer detail the abuse and harassment he faced when his (admittedly complicated) real life stopped him from updating his software as quickly as some would’ve liked.
Nonetheless, creating FOSS is still viewed favourably by most and developers are often expected to have some open-source projects on their CV when applying for coding jobs.
southcoastweb and FOSS
When we find ourselves creating code that we think might be useful to the community at large, we’ll often make the decision to release it as a FOSS package.
You can see a list of our current projects below: