Open Source: Challenges and the Way Forward

The open source market is predicted to reach the £24.2 billion mark by 2022.

The open source industry had its genesis in the free software movement started by MIT-based Richard Stallman in the early 1980s. Be it Linux as a substitute for Windows or Python, a highly readable programming language, open source projects have penetrated almost every sphere of ICT.

A report by CB Insights has predicted the open source market to reach the $33 billion (£24.2 billion) mark by 2022. Moreover, open source is an emerging economic and technological hotspot for the UK.

OpenUK’s ‘State of Open’ report has crowned the UK as Europe’s top contributor to open source with an annual inflow of £43.1 billion to GDP.

However, there’s a long way to go for open source globally.

The Evolution of Open Source

An open source software follows a free access model where developers around the globe can access, edit and modify the project’s source code without falling into any legal trouble.

The open source had its root in the free software movement that called for easing restrictions on sharing codes and encouraging collaboration between developers. The government introduced the copyleft method or the General Public License (GPL) as the campaign got widespread traction.

From then, developers could copy, debug, modify and even distribute codes with minimal interference from tech giants or IPR watchdogs. The world saw the rise of Linux, Firefox, Brave and Thunderbird in the software industry.

The UK as a nation has always prioritised freedom of collaboration between different sectors.

For instance, the council of Brighton and Hove has already opened its source code to developers for modifications. Even chunks of the official UK government website are available on GitHub for software engineers to edit, debug and optimise codes.

Later, London-based Canonical’s hard-earned success with Ubuntu encouraged developers to collaborate on open source projects remotely.

Open source codes are publicly available, making them highly susceptible to cyber breaches.

Developer security firm Snyk, which is based in London and Reading, helps these projects in strengthening their OSS infrastructure by eliminating vulnerabilities. Moreover, it offers code management tools to project maintainers. Snyk recently got $75 million (£55.3 million) of funding from Atlassian Ventures and Salesforce Ventures as part of its recent Series F financing. This pushed the company’s valuation to $8.6 billion (£6.3 billion), and total capital raised to $850 million (£626.7 million).

The Xen Project, a by-product of the Linux Foundation’s decades-old movement, is another open source project powering cloud services. It has served many big names in the industry, including AWS, Alibaba Cloud and IBM Softlayer. Xen offers customised virtualisation solutions for cloud platforms.

Challenges and Outlook 

Open source is based on ideas of collective freedom and ease of collaboration. However, contrary to the market outlook, open source is today plagued with a bunch of operational challenges.

Most open source projects are dying a slow death. Lack of monetary resources, difficult sustainability with limited outside support could be some factors hampering its growth. Moreover, project maintainers sometimes lose interest in their creation while others can’t find reliable developer communities that can contribute to source codes uniformly. Open source cannot quickly capitalise on sound business models, and when it comes to security, the loopholes can be manipulated heavily.

For example, Warwickshire’s Black Pepper and Symbian OS had to close down after two decades of business owing to some of these challenges.

To mitigate these loopholes, open source enterprises need to adopt viable growth models. Cambridge-based Collabora and Rolustech are helping open source projects to overcome managerial hurdles through consultancy services, customer relationship management and corporate tie-ups.

MongoDB and Red Hat have already set themselves as open source leaders. Red Hat’s storage, management, training, support and consultation services have been in demand since its inception.


In the UK, a number of nonprofit organisation have come forward to develop the country’s leadership and global dominance in the technology. Open UK and Open Knowledge Foundation are educating young developers about the merits, scopes and opportunities available in open source with regular workshops and guidance sessions.

Open source has the potential to act as a bridge between consumers and businesses worldwide. With constant upgrades in a product’s source code and support from global developers, an enterprise can save millions of pounds from being wasted.

Today, open source needs to adopt community-driven governance models with constant mentorship from industry experts. To maintain the legacy of open source movement, the project maintainers should tie up with corporates in training developer communities. Also, the industry, as a whole, needs to come up with sufficient monetary resources for maintainers to stay plugged in to their creations.

Avya Chaudhary
Avya Chaudhary
Avya Chaudhary is an engineer turned writer and an ardent Potterhead. Currently associated with TechnologyAdvice as a freelance writer, Avya develops high-quality content for businesses. She also has a well-demonstrated history of working with NGOs and civil societies, and is currently pursuing her passion for community service and content marketing.
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