Organizations still have a long way to go to to fully integrate the social web to connect to their customers. Here are some great examples, curated by Hult International Business School and Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center). Their book Connectivate! is a collection of real world stories from 54 innovative companies whose breakthroughs are changing the world.
By leveraging today’s confluence of technological and analytical breakthroughs, these companies connect people, businesses, governments and entities in novel and meaningful ways, capturing win-win propositions on the value chain. These companies have created a new economic context, increasingly accessible in a space-time singularity called Always Available.
Real world stories about innovators and innovative companies are an important way to learn, and we place high value on them at Innovation Excellence. The next case study in our Connectivate! series is:
GNU GPL – Free Software Ecosystem
Build applications with existing software platforms and volunteer programmers and testers
WHO NEEDS IT?
Individuals and companies who want to use software without paying licensing fees, or who want to build or customize software in a way that leverages the work of a large community of volunteer programmers.
WHAT IS THE CONNECTIVATION?
The GNU Public License (GPL) is a software license that guarantees those using the software under the license to utilize it, customize it, share it and contribute changes to it. The GPL enables anyone to access GPL software and brings millions of software developers together to build software collaboratively. The Internet is powered in large part by GPL software, which was instrumental in the Internet’s fast growth and expansion.
WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE?
Companies building proprietary software have to build it from scratch — an expensive proposition requiring in-house expertise. Customers of proprietary software are locked in to expensive license agreements that limit their ability to modify the code to their needs. GPL software enables companies to use and build better software more efficiently and at a lower cost.
Over 80% of the Internet runs on GPL or comparably licensed server software, and over 90% of the world’s content management systems powering Internet websites use GPL or comparable licenses. Almost two thirds of web browsers are GPL or based on GPL. Leveraging open source software saves companies $60 billion a year in IT costs, and it would cost $387 billion to reproduce the 4.9 billion lines of code and 200,000 open-source software applications currently under GPL.
We can produce better software faster and at lower cost by collaborating with other software developers. We can all work together if we set up the right licensing structure — one where we are all free to use, share and build upon each other’s code.
· Globalization: The GPL license leverages the contributions of people from all over the world.
· Technological Convergence: Programmers can work collaboratively without being in the same place, leveraging the Internet and well-developed processes.
· Sustainability: Companies looking to reduce costs have been willing to adopt and contribute to GPL software.
BASIC HUMAN NEEDS
· Personal Growth: Programmers like contributing to GPL software because it gives them a sense of pride. They like gaining respect in a community of developers that wants to achieve the same goals that they do.
· Safety: Since the source code of GPL software is available to all, users can feel confident that the software is as safe and efficient as possible — resulting from the contributions of dozens to thousands of programmers constantly fixing bugs and security flaws.
· Connection: Open source software developers like to belong to a community of like-minded developers.
WHY THEY ARE WINNING
Given the amount of GPL-based software running the world’s Internet infrastructure, it is difficult to build any new software without using at least some GPL code. There is strong loyalty among developers to continuously build more GPL software.
· Freemium: GPL software users don’t have to pay licensing fees, but often pay for customizations, resulting in a win-win for everyone
· Customer Loyalty: Because of the freedom to use and adapt GPL software, it has become the standard for much of the Internet. It effectively delivers software that is co-created by thousands of developers, high-quality, and robust, at low cost.
GPL is maintained by the Free Software Foundation. Millions of software developers volunteer their time to contribute to GPL software in exchange for bragging rights and the right to use other people’s code.
When a software developer writes code, he or she releases it under the GPL license, giving others the freedom to use, share and modify the code, as long as they contribute the changes to the project and give credit where it is due.
The GPL license is electronically embedded or referenced in the code of the software that uses the license.
Billions of people and millions of companies using software for free, or adapting free software to meet their needs.
· GPL relies on millions of software developers around the world to build software applications based on the license.
· GPL relies on legal partners to make sure the licensing terms are enforceable.
image credit: fsf.org
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Dr. Hitendra Patel, Ronald Jonash, Steve Wyatt and Victor Fernandes are co-authors of Connectivate! Companies Innovating in New Ways to be Always Available; and members of leadership and the team at IXL CENTER, the Center for Innovation, Excellence & Leadership at Hult International Business School.