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Free and Open Source Software has Changed The World

The free and open source software movement was started by individual technical visionaries who believed in digital freedom. It grew into a movement that has transformed software development, business, and modern society. Open source challenged and toppled the dominance of Windows, created a web browser that put people first, created the backbone of e-commerce, and revolutionized computing. It also invited the world to collaborate in ways it never had before. Today, there are over 50 publicly traded commercial open source software companies, all of whom, by definition, would not exist without the parallel coexistence of a given free and open source software technology.

The first generation of free and open source software developers, visionaries, and strategists — mostly baby boomers — is aging. As they step aside for a new generation, the personal stories of their contributions may be lost. We think it is crucial to collect and preserve this story of unrelated persons who made personal sacrifices, challenged the establishment, and changed how we envision technology and interact with the world.

A lot has been written about open source development and open source licensing — some practical, some polemical, some thought-provoking. But this project is not about the technology, or the theory, or the law. It is about the personal journeys of those who came together to revolutionize our modern technological world.

Most importantly, we need to capture how and why a generation self-organized to revolutionize the technology that runs our lives. Usually, changes come from the force of law, from political might, or from charismatic leaders. But sometimes — not often — it comes from people who come together spontaneously to build a dream. And that can happen even if those people are abrasive or have motives beyond the good of the community. We need to understand how and why this can happen, because the most profound changes are those that find their own place and time in a community that is born to embrace them.

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