Web Applications and a Brighter Future for Open Source Adoption

Short Form


In this talk, we discuss how web applications changed expectations of both sysadmins and end users, and what open source projects and organizations can do to help open source thrive in the web ecosystem. Attend and you’ll see a brief reminder of how web apps changed the developer-user relationship in open source, how some open source web app communities have reacted, what tools exist to get past the hosting barrier, and how your open source web app project can thrive.


There has been a dramatic shift in the past decade about how users expect to consume software, and the new expectations have changed the nature of how open source software is adopted by organizations of any size. Open source developers saw ourselves as tool producers; we would write code and post it on SourceForge with a helpful README. If someone found and liked the software, they would often begin a bottom-up approach to get that software adopted by their organization; they would try it on their own machine, and prove its usefulness to the rest of their team.

The mid-00’s, with the advent of GMail, AJAX, commonplace software-as-a-service and the general explosion of rich web applications, changed how users expected to use software. Desktop applications like Rhythmbox found competition from web-based services like Spotify, and users began to desire and became used to the advantages web applications could provide.

Many open source software developers, responding to the massive breadth of tools for building web applications, as well as the explosion of knowledge around building such applications, began to reach for the web as the interface and discovery mechanism for what they were building. In this part of the talk I’ll hopefully be gathering quotes from creators of open source web application projects like NewsBlur, ThinkUp and Django.

This change resulted in benefits for the users and developers, but open source web apps face one key challenge: who is responsible for hosting?

Bottom-up adoption was enough to get Linux, Apache, PHP, and Samba a foothold in the enterprise. For web applications, how does an open source fan approach the same bottom-up adoption strategy, when the change in how applications are distributed may have tightened the purse strings or access control to servers in organizations? What does the future hold for discovery, adoption, and development of Open Source software?

This talk will discuss the above in more detail, backed up with data about open source development and adoption, as well as quotes from leaders in the field. In the second half, we’ll discuss ways that developers and users can overcome some of the challenges, both for personal use and within their organizations, through tools like Docker, Sandstorm, YUNOHOST, and others.

There are real advantages to thinking web-first when developing and adopting open source projects (like ease of management, controlled dependencies for running code, etc), and the last segment of the talk will cover some of these.


web, hosting, adoption, deployment, business

Speaking experience

I’ve spoken at Django BarCamp 2014 on releasing web applications in production environments, and will be speaking at PyCon 2015 on how the Python process is run and bootstrapped on Unix-like systems. I’ve spoken about creating and hosting webcomics at KrakenCon 2014, Big Wow Comic Fest 2014, and Django BarCamp 2014. Additionally, I’ve given multiple talks about browser performance and software development best practices at Eventbrite in San Francisco.