Open source – it’s a phrase for some that conjures images of the software equivalent to hippie communes in Vermont sharing in the fruits and labor of their co-op-grown organic kale. But if that’s really how you see open source, get over it. This is where the world is going, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.
GitHub, the ubiquitous open-source development tool, is growing faster than anyone could have predicted, including its founders. If you aren’t familiar, take a few minutes to read up. What they’ve created is an environment where software developers everywhere can share their projects, ask for help with obstacles, and pull down publicly available plug-and-play code to avoid time-consuming foundational rework. But it’s more than that.
GitHub is fostering the reality of lean startups, and ultimately, small business growth. What used to take three engineers to develop from scratch can now be done by one engineer in an open source environment. Budding companies can work longer with less, facing fewer funding obstacles than ever before.
The point is this – why hasn’t this already caught on in the world of product design? To be clear, this is not an opportunity for solipsistic soapboxing; it is a legitimate question to anyone with insight.
Quirky has certainly opened the door to the idea of open sourced product design, but to create the same kind of pervasive GitHub-esque tool that CAD users can utilize may take an industry-wide change in consciousness.
Fast forward three years and the reality could be a garage-based engineer accessing publicly available frameworks, and rapidly prototyping with a desktop 3-D printer, pushing high-end product design towards the lean movement by an order of magnitude.
Maybe you don’t care about changing the model, but money speaks volumes. Considering GitHub’s valuation is closing in on a billion – is open source product development the next digital gold rush?