THE GOVERNMENT IS now a little more open. This week, the White House released its first official federal source code policy, detailing a pilot program that requires government agencies to release 20 percent of any new code they commission as open source software, meaning the code will be available for anyone to examine, modify, and reuse in their own projects. The government agencies will also share more code with each other, essentially adopting open source practices within their own governmental universe.
It’s the latest in a long line of high-profile victories for the open source movement. As recently as a decade ago, the worlds of both government and business worried that using open source software would open them up to bugs, security holes, and countless lawsuits. But despite these early fears, open source came to dominate the digital landscape. Today, practically every major piece of technology you interact with on a day-to-day basis—from the web to your phone to your car—was built using at least some form of freely available code.