What exactly is „Open Source“ (and why does it need more women)?


Have you ever used Firefox to browse the web? Or OpenOffice to write a document? Or an Android phone to call someone?

Do you connect with friends on Facebook? Or use Wikipedia to research? Or read a WordPress-powered blog?

If the answer is yes, then it means you’ve been using applications or services built with „open source“ software.

The technical definition of open source software is a little complicated but it basically means software that can be shared for free (rather than sold), and which software developers can modify, contribute to, and distribute.

Facebook, for example, is built with something called PHP. Android, Google’s phone software, uses the Linux kernel. Both of these are examples of open source software, developed and improved upon by many software developers over many years and available to be used and distributed for free by anyone.

Firefox, OpenOffice, and Android are also „open source“. In contrast to Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Apple’s iPhone iOS, which are not.

Open Source is important because it offers choice, reliability, and security. Choice means using software from whoever you want, and modifying it if you wish. Reliability means your software is more likely to be kept up-to-date and working. Security means that any security flaws are usually uncovered and fixed quickly. Open source software is cheaper to use and often easier to get working. Almost 90% of companies use some form of open source software and well over half of the whole internet is powered by an open source server software called Apache. So clearly open source has a really important role to play in the future of software development.

At the moment, while roughly 27% of women make up the broader software development community, their representation within open source development is only 2%. That’s right, only 2%!

Rails Girls Summer of Code wants to help change that. By providing the opportunity for Rails Girls students to work on an open source project with the support of a coach and mentor, we believe we can help to improve this ratio.

But to do this we need your help!

Our plan is to pay our students a small sum for the three months the Summer of Code program runs. This way they will be able to focus without interruption on their projects (and their contributions will be better). GitHub has already come on board as a major sponsor (which we’re very excited about) and we’re running a crowdfunding campaign that anyone can donate to. And by anyone we mean YOU 🙂

Rails Girls Summer of Code from Alexander Lang on Vimeo.

So if you’d like to see more women in open source, and would like to help us make this amazing project possible, please head over to our campaign page to