The open source movement started with free software. But the astonishing popularity in the 1990s of high-profile projects such as GNU/Linux, and the sudden attention that free software garnered as the critical engine behind the new Internet-based economy and culture, unlatched open source from its original computing origins and thrust it upon the greater society as meme and model for running businesses, conducting research, delivering education, and even developing government policy. A plethora of terms revolving around the open source ideal--peer production, crowdsourcing, the wisdom of crowds, prosumerism--drive the most exciting projects in these areas.
Open source is powerful and effective in all these domains. But the original practice and promise of open source software (which for the sake of this article can be considered the same as free software) is unique. The software experience cannot be ported--to use a computer programming term--whole-hog into other areas such as sharing songs or organizing public forums.
It's worth looking at what goes into creating open source software, and what unique traits of software make the open source process work well there. The open source model plays out differently in other fields. Its power may still carry the day, but for somewhat different reasons than those created Linux and the mighty Internet utilities. This article attempts to clear up common misunderstandings by explaining the following points: