5 Documentaries on the Open Source Revolution that you’ll love to watch

by Mayank
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There is a huge market for commercial and proprietary software all over the world. Take Microsoft Windows for example, 88 percent of all computer PCs worldwide used some version of the Windows operating system according to a study in 2020.

There is another category of applications that exists on the web- Open-Source Softwares. Most people are unaware of the fact that many computer applications and internet search engines run open-source code. While open-source applications do not have as much market share as proprietary alternatives, there is a small group of people who prefer to use and develop these freely available softwares. These people are not paid for developing these applications, nor do they care about the money, but they keep the open-source community alive for the bigger cause.

Fact: Many proprietary applications are built using the source code of open-source applications. For example, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge Browser, Opera Browser, etc are built using the source code of Chromium- an open-source project by Google.

How open-source differs from closed-source software?

Unlike closed-source (proprietary) software, the source code of open-source software is freely available for use on the Internet. Unlike pay-to-use software, you can download, modify the source code and rebuild software to suit your needs. You can also use code snippets from the source code to your own application without worrying about infringing any copyright. There is also a huge group of people supporting the open source community.

Best Documentaries on the Open-Source movement

I’ve been an avid lover of open-source software since my high school days and here I’ve compiled a list of five documentary films that you need to watch if you’re a geek like me who loves open-source software or if you want to get the motivation to join us in the Open Source Movement. I’ve watched these films and loved them, and I hope you’ll love them as well.

1) Revolution OS

Any geek will definitely rank this documentary as number one on their list. It traces the long history of GNU, Linux and the Open Source Movement. This fim was released in 2001 and features many prominent hackers and pioneers of the Free Software Revolution, such as Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Larry Augustin and more. Torvalds describes how he created the Linux kernel from scratch while Stallman sheds some light on how he developed GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) and his struggles during his time at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. You’ll also know what led Netscape (the most popular web browser at the time) developers to release its source code for free on the internet. If you are fascinated by, and want to explore, the open-source world, this must be the documentary to start your journey with as it clearly states the open-source philosophy.

Watch “Revolution OS” here.

2) The Code

The Code is another great documentary released back in 2001. Like the Revolution OS, it revolves around the year 1991, when a 20-year-old Linus Torvalds posted a question to an Internet newsgroup on how to build a better operating system? No one, literally, at that time, would have thought that Linux would become such a large and professional operating system and challenge Microsoft Windows 2000 (the most popular OS of that time) in the face. The Code focuses mainly on the early stages of Linux from 1991 to 2001. Along with Torvalds, this film also features some of the other popular hackers of that time and features a story on how they contributed to the free software movement. I loved how programming is described in “The Code”:

“Programming is like an art and like artists you’d love doing it even when you won’t get paid.”

The Code (2001)

Intrigued? Sure you will be.

Watch “The Code” here.

3) The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

This documentary is more of a biography than a product, but trust me it’s a great film. It revolves around the story of Aaron Swartz, programmer, entrepreneur, and Internet hactivist. Ever heard of Reddit? Yeah, Aaron was Reddit’s Co-Founder. He also changed the world of internet copyright by introducing the idea of Creative Commons (CC) to the world. He also authored the popular web feed format RSS, which website owners still use on a large scale, and you know what? He did it when he was only 14 years old. Man, this guy is a genius! The most important thing you’ll get from this documentary is how differently Aaron thought of information on the Internet.

“Information and knowledge should be freely available for all on the internet including research papers and online learning materials”

Aaron Swartz

I can keep boasting about how he shaped the internet for hours, but I don’t want to give up any spoilers. You should watch it yourself.

Watch “The Internet’s Own Boy” here.

4) Code Rush

Remember in the Revolution OS description, I mentioned how Netscape developers released the source code of their famous browser to the public? Code Rush dives deeper into that. This documentary from the year 2000 follows the life of a group of Netscape engineers in Silicon Valley. It covers the journey from the last years of Netscape as a company to the announcement of Mozilla’s open source project, which was later acquired by AOL. It’s a must watch for everyone to get the idea of what drives these developers to transition from proprietary to free and open-source.

Watch “Code Rush” here.

5) The Code-Breakers

This documentary is the most inspiring documentary of all. The Code-Breakers is a two-part BBC documentary that aired in 2006. It focuses on how underdeveloped and developing countries use FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) for their economic development.You’ll get a better idea of what open-source actually means and how it has a huge impact on the software community. Trust me, this documentary will motivate you to contribute to the free software community.

Watch “The Code-Breakers” here.

At last, I would request all developers reading this article to kindly give their contribution to the Open Source Movement and help the FOSS community to grow. It doesn’t cost you any money and you just need to take some spare time out of your schedule to help the community for the great cause.

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