Why Open Source Software Fuels the 3D Web Revolution

One of my driving interests in starting Rezzable in 2006 was to get into OpenSource Software (OSS).  It is the revolution in the software industry – it is the revolution in technology. I am sure that the 3D Web will be built using new OSS, just the way web today relies upon this incredible resource.

From our view, OpenSim could become the Apache of the 3D Web serving up 3D scenes to hundreds of millions of daily users in the near future.

Below are my notes on OpenSource: what it is, why it is changing online and how it has become so significant a force.  Plus, how people make money around Open Source--which is not necessarily free or a charity effort at all. Also watch the short video below where I hit some of the key points on why we are investing so much time and effort into using, developing and trying to make money with our mix of OpenSim, Drupal and more.

Watch video above: Jonathan Himoff, CEO Rezzable talks about why Open Source Software is so important to online innovation and the 3D Web

Not Just About Coding—Using Something That Works

We come at the Open Source topic from the user side, not the coding side. Wouldn't it be great if software just did everything we wanted it to? Well, that never happens. We want to make new user experiences without having to deal with the technical issues—just in the way people make website and don't have to first create their own database application etc.

Using a big software application, especially if it is core to your operations, is making a relationship with the developer. This is more critical in innovative, uncharted areas--like virtual online.  And it is not just about the present (unless the software is good enough as it is) it is about where the development roadmap is heading, the people leading the efforts and how fast progress can be made.

When software works,  it keeps working without fatigue, without rusting.  New hardware often makes old software perform better too. So really it is about enhancing and making applications meaningfully better over time. People can keep challenging the software with new uses, many of which can be accommodated and some which need new code to run.

Open Source Software is Seriously Big

If you have a computer you are already using Open Source. For people not familiar with the software industry and online it might be a surprise to note the following data-points:

What is Open Source Software?

The code can be read openly.  You can see the lines of code and comments. Developers can review, study and understand how the applications and modules function. It is also possible to make your own changes to the code and then (try) to compile it and run in your flavour.

Yet, OSS is not necessarily free to use or without usage restrictions. You can't just do anything you want with opensource code – just like you can't read a new book and then go off on your own and make a movie out of it.

Opensource is developed by a community with vested interests in using the software and having it work well. Collaboration with a community of developers and users can be organized and is not necessarily anarchy.

OSS is a very different way of solving problems, designing solutions and developing software. It is done out in the public. It is global collaboration at web-speed. There is also a balance between what the coders write and what the users contribute and each party gets access to the codebase for their participation.

OSS is released under a variety of licences such as GPL and BSD which restrict usage and how code can be modified and republished.  According to Black Duck GNU GPL licence is the most widely used.  There are a lot of commercial and philosophical points on why certain licences are better or worse. There is also a hot debate regarding Free  and Open Source Software. More info on Open Source:

Why Open Source is the Way to Go –

  • More Users Faster
    Users, especially early adopters, seem to jump on good open source a lot faster than proprietary software. More users means more attention to bugs, more comments on roadmap and more stress testing.
  • Share the Load, Build Momentum
    Making great software take a lot of time and an enormous amount of effort. Many people using and working on  improvements is better than a small team in stuffed into corporate cubicles somewhere. Typically there is a core coding team, but also there should be lots and lots of other developers and users involved. It is an extended team activity and leverages the web in a great way. The developers can get massive, immediate feedback and then make rapid updates further building trust and momentum within the community. Users are part of the process—not just the recipients of what comes out of it.
  • More Flexible Architecture, Faster/Smaller Iterations
    As OSS has a collaborative approach built-in to the development process, the systems should have more modular design to allow people to work independently on functions without impact each other or degrading the core performance. This also enables faster/smaller new code releases. Each release then is also easier to debug and track uplift.
  • Easier Integration
    Integration is more than just pushing XML files around. Complex online systems share data and resources in more detailed often delicate ways. Replicating data is not efficient either and impacts scalability. OSS allows for new small applications to be built into the code, often as modulars that can be shared also,  or accessing data in tables already existing.
  • Focus on Core Performance
    Ultimately there should be a set of core functions that should be common across all the use cases. People can then work on making  those critical areas work better—ie serve pages faster, be more secure, scale better. This then benefits all the users significantly.
  • Create an Ecosystem
    While the OSS might be free/low cost there are still many opportunities to add commercial value and build value in a business that has expertise around deploying, running, customizing, integration and creating content. As a network effect, more users lifts the benefits of each participating in the community.
  • Less Risky to Use
    You always have access to the code you are running. While it might not be practical for non-technical people to do anything with this, it does mean that you have the opportunity to pay for changes or at least port your content over to an alternative in the future. You are not at the mercy of a single software publisher—many of whom are bought and sold or become so profitable as to neglect the interests of their users. I don't know that in all cases using OSS is necessarily cheaper, although it certainly seems to be, but as a user or a business you have a lot more control of what you put into it.

How to Make Money Around Open Source Software

The main point is you can add value to something that already works and performs, it is a foundation for your new intellectual property. You don't need to create a web page server to make a great website—use Apache and then focus on what you can do best. Your starting point is much further than if you had to build everything or if you had to pay lots of money to get the basic online stack (like LAMP).

Depending on how mature the code is, you should prepared to invest some effort in the Community – it doesn't have to be writing code, could be in using software, flagging issues, reporting bugs and also giving active coders good use cases. Then understand where you want to add value and build a business in an open source ecosystem

  • Premium modules
  • Services – at a lot of different points
  • Support
  • Using a mix of opensource in unique ways to do amazing stuff – like 3D Web!