Where once Open Source projects were free versions of Word or personal projects around the home, today they are the driving force of the technology industry.

Speaking at an event in Germany last year, Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation, claimed not only that every major category of software is being dominated by Open Source, but these open projects are pushing forward innovation and expanding markets.

Hadoop. OpenStack. Kubernetes. TensorFlow. Spark. These types of projects are now driving the likes of Big Data, artificial intelligence, and cloud deployment. Companies now build whole businesses around projects anyone can create and contribute to.

Open source can be small and fun projects

Open Source projects today come in all shapes and sizes. Microsoft now has hundreds of projects on Github, ranging from simple extensions of various programs to PowerShell for Linux and AI frameworks.

They can still be small and fun personal projects; your own connected smart home idea for example. They could still be free versions of proprietary software such as LibreOffice. But they can be internal projects other people might find useful; Google recently Open Sourced a project designed to convert Python code into the search giant’s own Go language.

Docker spawned one of tech's biggest trends

Sometimes your Open Source projects can cause massive change within the technology industry. Take Docker for example. What started out as an Open Source project led to its creator dotCloud changing both the name and direction of the company, and, in containerisation, spawned one of the biggest technology trends of the last couple of years.

Any company and IT pro worth their salt in 2017 would be foolish to ignore Open Source. These projects can help you get projects done faster, easier, and cheaper, which leaves more time too for innovation. Likewise releasing as much as you can back out into the community means whatever you create can be made better and used in ways you may never have envisioned.