While the Open Source movement has lots of momentum right now, it’s not a new concept. Collaborative, free source code projects have been around for decades, and have evolved in many of directions. As professional web developers, we need to look closely at alternative open source tools. There are a wealth of good operating systems, web servers and other tools available that don’t get all the headlines like Linux and Apache.
Open source is not new. Back in 1982, I built a BBS on my KayPro 2, CP/M machine. I used some free BASIC software for the BBS, and compiled XMODEM for file transfers. My 64k, dual floppy, 300 baud monster became “North County BBS”. I had hundreds of users for a couple of years. All the software I used then was considered public domain, and included user-modifiable source code. If I made improvements to the software (I wrote the first multi-board extention to MBBS), I was expected to upload the software back to a number of BBS’s for peer review and further improvements. Most of the software I used was actually years old and well documented, even then.
While the media attention to Apache and Linux have been great for the Open Source movement as a whole, I’m afraid we as web developers have developed a bit of tunnelvision. I’m guilty. I haven’t touched a web server other than Apache since it was first developed. I’ve been using PHP since the 0.x versions. Meanwhile, I’ve been brushing aside some other very promising technologies.
This week, DevShed will begin a series of new articles looking at “alternative” open source web technolgies. The first up to bat is Roxen Challenger. I’ve spoken to the authors of this web server, and I’m very impressed. It’s modular, object oriented architecture has been used by companies like Real Networks to create some very impressive, very efficient web services. Challenger has even been used to create a single server capable of hosting 1,000,000 hosts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to abandon Apache and PHP any time soon. As a matter of fact, we’re soon going to begin an advanced series of articles on Apache, PHP and MySQL. I do, however, realize that each of our users has different needs, and there are a wide variety of tools to accomplish them. Let’s take a look around and see what else is going on in the world.
We need to hear from you. What technologies would you like us to write about? Should we continue our focus on open source? We have not spent much effort on Perl, as there is so much available on the web. Should we post perl tutorials? What other technologies are we overlooking? Add your comments below.