While 2008 has been a bleak year for the financial markets and the global economy, it has been very kind to open source, at least based on market share. A review of Net Applications data suggests that there has never been a better time for open source; however, as Google Trends data suggests, it's no longer enough to rest on one's open-source laurels.
- Number of projects. In terms of sheer numbers of open-source projects, as well as traffic to those projects, open source was on a tear in 2008, with SourceForge alone increasing its hosted projects by 10 percent.
- Browsers. Firefox has cracked 20 percent of the market, while Google Chrome has topped 1 percent. Internet Explorer has dropped month over month for nearly 12 straight months in 2008. As IE falls toward 50 percent market share we will, as Glyn Moody suggests, get a taste of real browser competition again.
- Operating systems. Windows, too, has been on a slide, though at 89 percent of the market, it's hardly in a weak position right now. Linux and Mac have both gained at its expense, with the latter taking a real bite (over 1 percent) out of the Redmond giant. But for Mac and Linux, the real market to watch isn't the desktop, but rather the mobile (or nearly mobile) market, where Mac and Linux have real consumer advantages.
- Commercialization. 2008 saw Red Hat and Novell Linux (and JBoss, in the case of Red Hat) revenue jump dramatically, as Sun also saw Open Storage and MySQL revenue climb significantly. But the real story may be in private data. My own company doubled its sales (again), while I know from conversations with executives at SugarCRM, MindTouch, JasperSoft, and other open-source vendors that their sales were on a tear, too. Separately, we're still talking about relatively small amounts of money (under $50 million), but collectively...? Commercial open source is coming into its own.
- General interest. Intriguingly, "open source" as a search term has been on the decline for years, as shown below, but I think this is a positive development. In light of the above, I read this decline to suggest that people are less interested in generic open source and more demanding of specific open-source projects. Does Hadoop meet my needs, in other words, not is it open source? This is a sign of maturity, not weakness. It's a sign of open source going mainstream, as Sun's Zack Urlocker suggests.
It has been a banner year for open source, just as it has been since at least 2000. I suspect that 2009 will be much the same...only better.