When Mitch Kapor exploded onto the software world with Lotus 1-2-3, Open source and Free Software were just a twinkle in the eye of a few visionaries at MIT. From that humble beginning, Open Source has had many victories and become such a critical part of the computing and internet ecosystem that it can credibly stand up to the attacks of the most powerful companies in the industry. More and more programmers grow up working entirely with open tools and languages, and the consequences of this ingrained openness are impossible to predict.
In addition to being a great technical achievement, Open Source has intrinsic virtues that should be remembered. The freedom to access, use, and extend the knowledge it contains is empowering to those that take advantage of it. Anyone in the world with commodity hardware and high speed internet access has access to enough resources to learn, contribute, and gather with like minded individuals. This is especially beneficial to marginalized people lacking mainstream opportunities. Open Source is also the best current model of collaborative, self-managing communities, also known as democracy. Some of the challenges that Kapor warns against are the need to foster innovation within Open Source communities, and to make the products easier to use for non-technical people.
Mitchell Kapor is active in the world of open source software as the founder and president of the Open Source Applications Foundation, which is developing Chandler, a new personal information manager, and as chair of the Mozilla Foundation. Kapor founded Lotus Development Corporation in 1982 and designed Lotus 1-2-3, the "killer app" which made the PC ubiquitous in business. He is also the co-founder (in 1990) of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and currently serves as a director of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and of the Level Playing Field Institute.
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