The Case for Open Source Software at Work

Jonathan MathewsPublic

Open Source Business

Open source has entered the limelight at work. Not only is it frequently being used in businesses – but it’s helping people build their professional reputations, according to the recently released 2017 GitHub Open Source Survey.

Notably, half of the 5,500 survey GitHub contributors say that their open source work was somewhat or very important in getting their current role.

The survey found nearly all (94 percent) employed respondents use open source at least sometimes professionally (81 percent use it frequently), and 65 percent of those who contribute back do so as part of their work duties.

Also striking is the fact that most respondents (82 percent) say their employers accept – or encourage – use of open source applications and dependencies in their code base (84 percent), although some said their employers’ policies on use of open source are unclear (applications: 13 percent; dependencies: 11 percent).

The survey also found that nearly half (47 percent) of respondents’ employers have an IP policy that allows them to contribute to open source without permission, while another 12 percent can do so with permission. There is also a grey area here: 28 percent say their employer’s IP policy is unclear and another 9 percent aren’t sure how a company’s IP agreement handles open source contributions.

Large Companies Are On Board

The attention open source is receiving is no doubt helped by the fact that it is, well, open, allowing anyone to participate, regardless of the company they work at, enabling a variety of different perspectives. Some of the world’s largest companies – including Walmart, ExxonMobil, and Wells Fargo — are using the software as well as open sourcing their own code. The government has taken notice, too. In 2016, the Obama administration released its first official federal source code policy, which stipulates that “new custom-developed Federal source code be made broadly available for reuse across the Federal Government.”

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