Open Source started when programmers began collaborating online to build new technical platforms and systems. Freed from institutional red-tape, hierarchy and shareholder responsibility the ideas flowed fast and furious through these online communities. The rewards weren’t profit but the buzz of collaboration, the intellectual challenge and the opportunity to shake things up.
By any measure, the results have been staggering. Linux, a computer operating system, was one of the first big breakthroughs. So successful that, when referring to the software giant’s future, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer said, "I'd put the Linux phenomenon really as threat number one".
More recently, an Open Source community called Mozilla created Firefox, a web browser that at the time of writing had been downloaded almost 21 million times. Its members are so passionate that at the end of 2004 they funded a double-page advert in the New York Times announcing its launch.