Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Chairperson (Advisor 1)

Craig Lien

Reader (Advisor 2)

Joel Schuessler


The continuum of the Information Technology Industry recently passed a 'crossroads' with Y2K. Although January 1, 2000, was a non-event, people had a glimpse of how dependent we have become with computers, the software that runs on the computers and the companies that develop the software. Because of competitive advantage, a vast majority of commercial software companies never release source code to the public. Operating system variants began to emerge. The vendors of the variants made enhancements that served their customers and retained them for competitive advantage. Other vendors had to match the enhancements and retain them for competitive advantage, collectively spending up to $1 billion annually. Eventually Unix variants were not compatible and many were destined to obscurity. While Unix posturing occurred, Microsoft had a single focus and a single platform, the Intel 386. Some were opposed to the idea of proprietary software. Richard Stallman for one, went on to start the Free Software foundation and dedicated himself to the creation of high quality software. While Unix vendors continued to bicker and Microsoft continued their conquest, a blip appeared on the radar screen called open source. Hackers from, academia, research facilities, and software companies were writing high quality free software and giving it away. Noteworthy open source products include Netscape, Apache, Perl, BIND, sendmail, Emacs, FreeBSD, NetBSD, SAMBA, GNOME, Darwin, Python, and Linux. In this paper, we will examine the early history of software, the re-birth of sharing the source code, the software development model, and the culture of open source software. Then we will examine the most successful open source project - Linux, its history, its strengths/weaknesses, and the major Linux players. Then we will discuss sustainable open source business models.


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