The end of a decade: Breathtaking Open IT innovations

Soon 2019 is over and a new decade with new IT innovations will start again. For simple effective problem solving learning from the past is crucial. What worked well and why? What great promising IT technology did not meet the expectations promised?

IT Technology has a large impact in the way we live in the western world nowadays. As an IT architect I love simple smart open software solutions that just work as promised. Open innovative IT solutions are an enabler for other innovations. Building upon ideas of others has historically been a key driver for changes and growth.

1 ZeroMQ: The perfect open source messaging library

ZeroMQ is a high-performance messaging library, aimed to be used in distributed or concurrent applications. Messaging infrastructure was for too long a domain for big IT companies like IBM (with MQ-Services) and Tibco. However when the creators of the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol leave the AMQP workgroup in favor of developing the significantly simpler and faster ZeroMQ this is a real signal. ZeroMQ is nowadays powering hundreds of great IT Solutions. Since ZeroMQ is deep down hidden in application infrastructure libraries the real impact that ZeroMQ brought for new IT innovations is underestimated. The real beauty of ZeroMQ is of course not the technology itself, but the development and still healthy community around zeromq that Pieter Hintjes carefully created. Pieter was a truly amazing personality who inspired a lot of people. His books are still an inspiration for making smart choices if you care about privacy, FOSS and openness.

2 Jupyter Notebook: Browser magic is possible

Using a web browser as universal UI for everything was for a long time a holy grail. But since the introduction of notebooks working on programming experiments can be done with a perfect working browser UI. The advantage of doing work using a computer but only using a notebook concept is something you really must experience. The notebook concept is comparable with a physical laptop (also called ‘notebook’ in many countries). You can find and install programs and be productive for your task in a minute. The Jupyter notebook concept is a FOSS software based concept that makes it possible to be very productive when working on complex programming experiments.

Jupyter notebooks are now the core tool to use for every researcher. But also data engineers, machine learning engineers are hooked to the notebook concept. The default standard for notebooks is the Jupyter notebook. It supports more than 40 programming languages. Notebooks are an enabler for open science, since experiments and published papers can easily be repeated and shared and can be build upon. Notebooks have also proven to be a great tool for learning since transferring complex knowledge has never been easier. Of course it is no surprise that Jupyter notebooks are powered by zeroMQ infrastructure software.

3 Insight Maker: Building System Dynamics models simple

Insight Maker is a powerful simulation tool that runs in your web browser. Best of all, it’s FOSS software and completely free to use on a hosted instance at

For many decades creating system dynamics models was expert work and required very expensive software. So only researchers at universities or expensive consultancy firms with often a questionable reputation created System Dynamics models. As methodology, System Dynamics spans from knowledge capture and problem articulation to scenario and policy analysis and improvement. System dynamic models are visualized through diagrams. System Dynamic models typically contain real world tangible processes, information flows, human aspects and soft factors like perceptions of people involved.

Creating a System Dynamic model in an easy way is a great way to learn about a problem situation. The power of Insight Maker is that it is now possible for every one who can use a web browser to create and play with a system dynamic model. You can run different simulations , change variables or change feedback loops in a simple way. All with the easy of one mouse click. For the first time in history everyone can now make use of a tool to take advantage of the power of System Dynamics. So you no longer need a PhD degree in science or be a computer nerd.

One of the best features of the free to use web based Insight Maker version is the easy way to share models and collaborate with total strangers. You can build models by making use of models of others. Human behavior and decision-making is based on perceptions of reality rather than reality itself. System Dynamics is a great tool for complex problem solving. So use Insight Maker to find sustainable solutions for minimizing carbon footprints world wide. Credits for the people making Insight Maker as FOSS application available for us all! Thank you Gene Bellinger and Scott Fortmann-Roe.

4 WordPress Gutenberg : The new standard for web based editing

The Gutenberg project has transformed the way content is created on WordPress. WordPress is by far the most simple and effective FOSS solution for creating a simple website or a complex enterprise eCommerce site with million of hits. With the new Gutenberg editor block editor a new methodology for creating and working with content is realized. The Gutenberg editor can be used as universal web editor for any application that needs user friendly web editing. E.g. it is already possible to use Gutenberg on Drupal, an other large FOSS CMS, but due to lack on an user friendly approach now miles behind WordPress in features and popularity. WordPress has proven to be still a very innovative FOSS CMS platform and very friendly for plugin developers and users. Breaking changing in WordPress core are rare, since the core team knows millions of web sites depend on plugins who are depend on APIs core offers.

But besides the breathtaking Gutenberg editor WordPress sites also offers now full RESTful access to content with a solid security model. All major security risks on WordPress sites are introduced by WordPress plugins or templates. Partly due to the lack of a solid security code review before plugins are offered on WordPress has proven to be still a great platform for FOSS CMS innovation, while keeping stable and simple to use and to extend. So if you are searching for a full featured FOSS CMS platform that is simple to use and to extend: WordPress is still a logic choice for innovative projects.

5 Emscripten : Hidden compiler innovation for the web

WebAssembly is a new W3C standard since December 2019. But Emscripten is the dark power behind improving performance of web application at large. Emscripten is a tool chain for compiling to asm.js and WebAssembly, built using LLVM. WebAssembly is a new language that runs in modern web-browsers, as a complement to JavaScript.  It’s a low-level assembly-like language that runs with near-native performance intended as a compilation target for low-level languages like C and C++.

Emscripten provides Web support for APIs such as OpenGL and SDL2, allowing complex graphical native applications to be ported, such as the Unity game engine and Google Earth. A great demo of the power of Emscripten is the Pyodide project. This project provides a full scientific Python stack in the browser.

6 Let’s Encrypt: Making HTTPS default

To reduce privacy and security risks the use of HTTPS, so encrypted transmission of web traffic to and from your browser is mandatory. Due to cost and complex configuration and key management requirements the use of HTTPS for websites was for too long a painful administrative setup. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open Certificate Authority. To enable HTTPS on your website, you need a certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). Let’s Encrypt is a CA. Let’s Encrypt is an automated, and open certificate authority made possible by the non-profit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). Thanks to Let’s Encrypt the internet has become a little bit more secure.

Technology retrospective 2010 -> 2020

The world wide financial crisis of 2007–08 had a significant impact on many technology innovations. But with less money to spend a lot of new smart technology innovations evolved. Cloud innovations still made steady progress. But the magic is now gone and the large investments must be earned back. Also currently everyone is aware that digital information processing is more important than ever. So it is not smart to outsource all your valuable data assets to a global Cloud provider without thinking and performing a good risk analysis. On premise automation will stay for companies who have strict security and privacy regulations and who are able to manage IT operations using software defined configurations well. So new companies for providing solid hardware on premise will be needed.

This decade again showed again that great world wide IT innovations are possible by a very small team or a single person. E.g. the React.js JavaScript framework was created out of some frustration by a single developer. All single page applications are now powered now by a JavaScript framework which uses the React concept. The concept of using a virtual DOM to make UIs fast was great. The virtual DOM solved performance problems of needing to frequently update the browser DOM for rich UI web interface applications. Since the introduction of React the number of Javascript UI libraries exploded. Browser technology is still evolving. Web applications need innovations in web browsers. So FOSS browsers are still crucial for innovation.

Innovations and improvements in hardcore IT infrastructure like cloud data centers and 4G cellular network technology made it possible for companies like Uber, AirBnB, Amazon and Alibaba to grow. However if this impact is inclusive and sustainable from an ecological point of view is questionable.