The Open Source Opportunity

Yesterday, Simon noted that Elance’s Online Work Index, which analyzes the hot categories for jobs posted on its marketplace, shows PHP-related jobs holding the No. 1 spot in July (as has been true since February). This lines up with trends that we have been tracking on the OStatic blog, where open source and open source-related skills are becoming key differentiators for people seeking work in tech. Not only do such skills help those seeking work stand out from the crowd, but job opportunities related to open source are on the rise in many categories, even in this bad economy.

In a post over on OStatic, “Open Source Skills As a Job Seeker’s Key Differentiator,” I provided the following chart showing percentage growth data from for jobs related to various content management systems:

As you can see, the growth in demand for people skilled in open-source CMS platforms, in particular Drupal and Joomla, is huge. Part of the reason these particular platforms are ushering in more jobs for tech workers is that many publishers are switching to free, open-source content management systems from expensive proprietary ones. (In this post over at OStatic, I discussed that shift, and how the first major online publication in the UK is now running completely on Drupal.)

The fact that PHP is a hot ticket in the development world is just one of many more examples where open source skillsets can be very valuable in the tech work arena. In a column for ComputerworldUK, noted open source pundit Glyn Moody points out that Google’s (s goog) recently announced Chrome OS could usher in many jobs in open source, especially for Linux-savvy folks who can support the new operating system. Moody also cites data showing that Linux-related job opportunities have fallen at a much slower rate than other types of tech jobs in the down economy.

What’s really going on here? Many people think of open source as a non-mainstream, highly technical and specialized field. That is rapidly changing, though. In fact, it has already changed. It used to be that many open source components were built by developers for other developers, and weren’t fully realized platforms with application ecosystems orbiting around them. Now, promising open-source platforms are flourishing, and bringing jobs with them.

Google has not one but two open-source operating systems: Android and Chrome OS. Apache remains hugely popular among web servers. Red Hat (s rht) is a successful public company posting strong financial results with its business model of services and support for open-source software. Startups such as Cloudera and Eucalyptus Systems are emulating that model for other open-source software offerings. Firefox is taking away market share from Internet Explorer (s msft) every month. The list goes on and on.

It’s always been a truism that being a specialist can help you stand out from other job seekers. Now, increasingly — and even in one of the most depressing job environments in recent history — open source skills represent a way for tech job hopefuls to seek out new opportunities.

Have open source skills helped you get a job?