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How Open Data Sharing has Transformed the Web

by Jake Rocheleau

on August 23, 2012

in Resources

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The modern times of open source software has created a rift between web developers. It’s now easier than ever to launch a custom CMS with plugins and your own template layout, too. Web designers from all around the world are happy to share their PSD files or icon sets as freebies. But what has all this open sharing done to improve the Internet?

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I’d like to look into some of these ideas in this article which follows. The Internet has transformed greatly in just a few decades as more people are learning web development than ever before. There is a rich history behind the Internet and it’s definitely an exciting time to be working with open source solutions.

Freelancers and Small Business Owners

Possibly the most heavily affected market are small businesses around the world. When you have a website up online it offers people the chance to Google your name and get more information on your company. This can include previous work experience, your rates per project, and contact details.

Small business owners who didn’t know anything about web design would have been paying hundreds or even thousands for a decent website ten years ago. But with so many articles and tutorials online about building websites, it’s possible for that same business owner to create their own website from scratch!

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Building on a CMS such as WordPress or Fork CMS grants the opportunity to edit pages via completely open source solutions. You’ll have the ability to install modules, plugins, custom templates, or even find a developer to work with you on the website theme. Any costs you would have to spend building a website with open source will be much lower than going at it alone.

Developers are Learning Quicker

My absolute #1 reason for supporting open source code is to help other web developers in educating themselves. It really does take months or even years of study & practice before you can feel confident as a web designer. HTML5/CSS3 is a tough beginning hurdle, and it can get much more confusing when you begin programming in PHP or Ruby.

At least, it was a lot more confusing 5 or 10 years ago. It’s still confusing now but there are so many articles explaining different programming techniques in detail. Just diving into code is also an option if you have the dedication and sincere willpower. You can Google for practically any issue and find a quick fix without much of a struggle.

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Even better is when you can’t find an existing solution but still need to solve the problem on your own. Stack Overflow is one of my favorite communities online just full of intelligent programmers and web developers. If you can’t find a solution in their archives then it’s worth posting a new question. Members are always happy to offer advice and additional support. Many times you’ll be presented with a working demo solution to the problem.

But all of this comes back to a much quicker growth cycle. Open source web development & support forums allow younger programmers in high school or college to start building insanely complex web applications. Getting into this practice early will most certainly lead to a comforting future as your education will expand much more rapidly.

Emergence of Standard Trends

Rounded corners, glossy buttons, text shadows, and responsive websites are all examples of modern-day design trends. These have evolved in recent years because of major CSS3 support for all these effects. Many of these trends have grown because designers pick up ideas quickly and work with them in future projects.

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Emerging trends from the open web have allowed for many more customized websites. Designers are looking towards the future with mobile retina images and custom fonts through CSS3 font-face. Once you learn how to share your code and find these examples online it’s a quick process incorporating designs into other websites.

As more designers follow tracks then these trends become mainstream and start popping up everywhere. Over the passing months and years trends will die down and move into something else. But we’ll see a more rapid expansion of changes with open data sharing. Many of the PSD freebie websites also offer a sense of custom trends in digital Photoshop artwork.

Exponential Growth

This idea of immediate growth has been around for a long time. It’s noteworthy how more open source data actually forces this exponential growth of ideas even faster. You have so many options when more tutorials and code and layout designs are available to look through.

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I would expect to see a huge increase in custom web browser functionality over the next 3 or 4 years working off the base foundation already established. There are plenty of code libraries out there which support basically all types of documents. jQuery is merely one JavaScript library which has an enormous collection of plugins to work with.

It’s best if you can just go with the flow and try not to feel overwhelmed. There is only so much you can contribute to this massive collection of open source data. And while you are contributing your part there are hundreds of thousands of developers around the world contributing their own ideas, too. It turns the Internet towards a closer path of an active organism. It’s something that humanity as a whole can greatly benefit from being consumers and creators at the same time.

Final Thoughts

As we’re continuing into 2012 there will surely be more and more open source solutions available. This idea of the open web is growing dramatically and more young web developers are adopting these trends in their projects. I am often following the new releases for CMS’ and related plugins which can expedite required project timelines.

But looking around at the current state of affairs it seems we are caught right in the middle of this process. The open web has been around long enough to grow into its current state, but it hasn’t quite exploded. I feel that a true open source revolution is just around the corner. If you have similar ideas or questions about the article feel free to share with us in the post discussion area.

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About Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a frontend user experience designer and frequent blogger. He writes about all things web and mobile design. Check out his updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau. Connect with Jake on google+