Tribute to Open-Source
Everyone compares the beginnings of the Internet and the beginnings of the Blockchain. It is clear that in both cases it is a digital revolution. What is similar in these two revolutions is the importance of Open Source at the root. As Jim Jagielski points out in the article (in French):
“Even before people moved to the World Wide Web, what made the Internet so special was the very fact that all this technology was available via open source. When you think of email: Sendmail was an open source program. The DNS was entirely created by BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), an open source project. The foundations of the Internet have all been built around open source. “
These are words I find particularly wise. What makes the Blockchain so sexy today, so special, is its Open-source foundations.
At a time when patents are constantly increasing (more than 3 million in 2017).
Open-source provides an alternative to the use of software/technologies, which allows for greater innovation. And the result is clearly visible, as indicated in the article, there are now more than 2,000 blockchain projects on the market.
This article will go through Open Source as a philosophy, and then the importance of this philosophy in the Blockchain revolution.
The Open-Source philosophy
A brief history of Open Source
Open Source was officially born on February 3, 1998, a term that was propelled by Eric Raymond. But the philosophy that surrounds this term was born much earlier with free software. The term Open Source was created precisely so that the difference between the two terms could be made. On the one hand, there is free software, which can be used by everyone, and which enjoyed its first success in 1984 thanks to Richard Stallman with the GNU project and on the other hand, Open Source, which has different properties.
We can even go back a little earlier, in 1942. That year, Robert King Merton brought the idea of the common good applied to knowledge so that the results of (scientific) work could be freely accessible to all.
Closer to today, in 2007, thirty Internet activists met to define the concept of open public data. Between open-source and free culture lovers, they have defined the principles that define open public data.
Open Source Principles
For a software to be considered as Open Source by the OSI it is necessary :
- That the redistribution is free (from freedom);
- That the source code is easily accessible;
- Allow derivative works;
- That the license allows the distribution of software developed from modified source code;
- That the license does not discriminate against anyone;
- That the license does not discriminate against any field of application;
- That the license be distributed;
- That the license is not product-specific;
- That the license does not restrict access to other software;
- And finally, that it is not technologically neutral.
We will be able to laugh at the fact that despite the freedom that emanates from the Open-Source philosophy, its conditions are numerous. But freedom sometimes requires rigour!
The thought of free software
I would like to take a step back on open-source and talk about the philosophy around free software. Because as we have seen, even if open-Source breathes freedom, free software is a more important part of it. It is the idea of a free culture, open to all. The idea that intellectual property should not be restricted to a person or entity. This is the idea that technological progress belongs to everyone, but also that it must be accessible to all.
As we saw in the introduction, patents have not been as successful as they are today, and yet, according to the same report, this is not necessarily linked to more innovations.
Open-source brings much more innovation because it has far fewer constraints. Sometimes some patented technologies are released into the public domain and become open-source. The opposite is impossible. There is indeed an energetic man who tried to patent Bitcoin, in vain. If he ever succeeds, because nothing is impossible in this world, it is important to know that it has nothing to do with the philosophy behind the greatest cryptocurrency. This at least amuses the community, which is sufficiently educated to recognize the founding quality of this blockchain.
Blockchain, open-source and privacy
The Blockchain is only the Blockchain if it is open-source
The Bitcoin is free and open-source: Its code is very easily accessible, it respects all the above-mentioned conditions and its use is completely free. It is even impossible to count the number of forks that result (if you have an idea, I’m listening!).
Its strength lies in this sharing. The Bitcoin’s idea is to act as a counterweight to the banks. The Blockchain technology on which the cryptocurrency is based, among other things, allows transactions to be made on an open and distributed unalterable register. This is the principle of Blockchain technology: A distributed, verifiable registry that requires validators to operate. Its code must therefore be auditable by anyone to validate its immutability. As soon as the code is no longer verifiable, it is no longer immutable.
Open-source is the philosophy of the Blockchain, but goes even further: It is what allows it to exist. And that’s what I find quite poetic, or exciting. Because it means that we can never make this technology a completely private technology, we can never privatize the code of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Horizen.
The Blockchain is not just a digital revolution, it is also a libertarian revolution.
Can Open Source rhyme with privacy?
This whole idea of sharing, freedom and public information raises the following question: What about privacy in all this? Does everything have to be public to be Open-Source?
I would say no. Because his philosophy is precisely libertarian. There are cryptocurrencies specialized in privacy: Horizen, ZCash, Monero… These allow you to make anonymous transactions and much more, Horizen will also allow you to make anonymous messaging for example
How is that possible? The Blockchain does not work without cryptography, but cryptography alone does not make its use anonymous. Most blockchains are pseudonymous, which is already a freedom, but some protocols add the anonymizing criterion. At Horizen this works thanks to ZK-Snarks, as well as at ZCash, CryptoNote for Monero.
This means that protocols have been created to protect the user’s privacy, while allowing the immutability of the technological structure. And it is precisely this that will open the scope of the Blockchain with identity management, AI, securities trading, ownership, product tracking, transportation… Everyone can use this Open Source technology, add the anonymizing criteria they want and revolutionize their domain.
Anyone can use this Open Source technology, add the anonymizing criteria they want and revolutionize their domain.
Protocols that allow anonymity therefore allow the Blockchain to be used on a larger scale.
The Blockchain, by its Open-source foundations, has revived a libertarian movement within the various communities that support this technology. We are facing a technological, social, political, banking and disruptive technology revolution. I think it is still too little known today and personally I am afraid that the importance of trading will encroach on the benefits that technology brings. That’s also the purpose of my articles and that’s what I’ll ask you: make the Blockchain sexy! Talk about it around you, share what you are passionate about, learn about its evolution, meet old and new people. Be part of the revolution, we are at the dawn of a new world, it is in your hands!