What will Linux and open source look like in 2041?
Open Source

What will Linux and open source look like in 2041?

The world last month celebrated 25 years of Linux, or at least 25 years since a key moment in Linux’s history when Linus Torvalds requested contributions for his operating system. Emboldened by this example, I asked other open-source experts to imagine Linux and open source a quarter-century hence in 2041.


Sacha Labourey, CEO of Jenkins-based software delivery leader CloudBees

In 25 years, society will only permit open source software. You’ll need to ask your company permission to write proprietary code. The term developer will become superfluous because ‘code aware’ people will just be 'people' and because the ability of working people to put their ideas into code will be fundamental to them bringing value to the economy.

Like internet connectivity, computing infrastructure will be ubiquitous and defined by open source code just like the programs that it runs. The law will require the software that powers human-enhanced features, robots and self-driving objects to be in open source; this will be enforced by “a Free Man Digital Act”.

Grandpa will tell his kids all about his first CVS commit last century and GitHub – in whatever form it takes - will be your digital home and your online résumé.


Stephen Etheridge, EMEA lead solution architect and IoT architect at NoSQL database leader Basho

Open source will become the business model for both software and hardware. People will not pay for software at all though they may pay a small amount for content or for professional services such as support, implementation or analysis.

The predominant working pattern will be self-employed professionals coming together in collectives (similar to how the open source community does now) to achieve specific goals. People will be members of many such collectives or teams in their working lives and at the same time. Therefore, free and open source technology will become the norm and people may even look back on our time as confusing or irrational.

By 2041 there will be a lot of things happening in space, such as asteroid mining. This will all done remotely using open source hardware and software. There won’t, unfortunately, be giant space stations out there, it will most likely be geeks in bedrooms vicariously living as ace space pilots while controlling what are essentially drones on steroids.

Nanotechnology will be like 3D printing is now. Everyone with around $200 will be able to rearrange atoms on the fly and make incredible new materials; this too will be open sourced for others to use.


Sean White, SVP of emerging technologies and David Bryant, VP of platform engineering, Mozilla

Open source once was just about making software free to everyone and has become much more — an open, participatory, community-driven, fully transparent way of creating something and making it available to all. This open source “lifestyle” allows people to innovate in nearly infinite ways and applies both to advancing familiar things and creating wholly new ones. Imagining where that path would lead over the next twenty-five years means expecting this model will come to apply to nearly everything that society creates. So, for example, it will mean not only systems of software and hardware as is true today, but machine learning training data, AI algorithms, cultivation “recipes” for agriculture, biological organisms, individual lines of legislation and government, and commercial operating models.


Scott Gnau, CTO at Hadoop Big Data firm Hortonworks

When Linux was born 25 years ago, it’s highly unlikely that anyone on the planet had any idea how dramatically one technology could change the world. Today we see it weaved in to every aspect of our lives – in our kitchens on smart fridges, in entertainment – for TVs, smart phones and even games consoles, on the streets via moving advertising signs and even on us through wearable technology. It’s everywhere. And so the sky truly is the limit for open source technology in 2041.

Open source will be part of default thinking in 2041. It will have become the norm. People who were once just users have now become producers, they’re re-shaping the culture of open source today and over the next 25 years the GitHub generation will collaborate, create and produce. This will empower an enterprise revolution.

The participation and collaboration between mature and interactive communities will drive exponential change and encourage innovation and ideas at a more holistic level. Individuals will have the power to create a new world together.

These constant improvements in technology and computer sciences will lead to a new lease of life for software - in 2041 software will make better apps to improve lives. The power of open source software is that it welcomes the opportunity for people to turn ideas in to realities and in 2041 our daily lives will have been transformed all over again.


Allan Foster, VP strategic partner enablement of identity management firm ForgeRock

Safe to say it’s likely to be a lot different than today. The underlying premise of community-written source code is still going to be a very real thing. On the other hand, I think the idea of proprietary code – controlled by an enterprise, etc. – is going to continue to die.

I think the issue will become: what happens when software becomes ubiquitous? There has to be a platform, but think about other things that map into this: the rise of TV, the rise of kitchen appliances, the rise of the automobile. Each of these are things, all of which have gone remarkably proprietary as they have matured.

Think 30 to 40 years ago, the early days of the PC or earlier back to ham radio. You had Radio Shack, you had enthusiasts building things using electronic components. This is all similar to the open source movement. Jump forward a number of years, and it’s not about the electronics anymore. The TV or the PC is the commodity itself, not unlike the electronic component of decades ago. There are no user-serviceable parts inside. It’s no longer about the device, it’s all about the function of the device.

I will say that for the next five to ten years, open source code is going to continue playing a key role in the IT economy – open source’s best days are still ahead. But 30 years, 50 years ahead? I’m not sure we can imagine where it’s going to go. In the world of flying cars, improvements to roads no longer matter. The evolution of code could lead to fundamental changes in the ways we think about the physical world, the shape of communities, the built environment. Imagine that.  


Edward Grant, COO of business communications platform provider Solgari

Bringing together collections of the world’s best and brightest minds to continually adapt, improve and reinvent each other’s ideas is a great recipe for success. Communications is a prime example and cause for much excitement. Within the next 25 year, the technology people will use to communicate is going to be dramatically different to today and open source software such as that used in the WebRTC protocol will play a major part in this.

The traditional public switched telephone network call will be totally redundant and all communications will be browser based and at no cost to users. Consumers will have the successors of today’s smartphone in their pockets, with always-on internet access regardless of location. All communications from and to these devices will only be through their local IP address and all users will be identified by their voice or face to whoever they are connecting to. Internet-based communications are quickly becoming the norm already, with many millennials unlikely to ever own a landline, and OSS is simply an enabler. 

This approach will also apply to how we run our daily lives, using our voice to transact and send voice commands to smart homes and store technology for all of our daily chores. The impact on the traditional telco company is going to be hugely challenging as their business offering must evolve from communications transportation to high value-add software services.


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect

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