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Top Open Source Projects of 2018

by | Nov 7, 2018

Open source has been a major force for good in the world of software. Developers around the world can contribute to and use projects that make their job easier and standardize the way applications get built and talk to one another. The open source revolution has given power to individual developers to build applications that would have taken a whole team many months to complete, simply by combining and building upon open source tools and frameworks.

2018 was another great year for open source, and the open source movement continues to grow. GitHub added 8 million users and saw over 60 million pull requests between September 2017 and September 2018. That’s the highest rate of new developers and new contributions in GitHub’s history.

In the spirit of encouraging more contributions and exposing readers to new projects they might not know about, we’ve compiled a list of the top open source projects in 2018. Some of these are based on popularity, others on growth, and still others made the list based on intrigue alone. Whatever your field of expertise, we’re sure you’ll find something interesting in the projects below.


Cross-Platform & Web App Development

A major trend over the past decade of web development has been increasingly complex and usable JavaScript frameworks for building applications. Of course, you’ve probably heard the big names. Angular from Google and React from Facebook continue to be the most popular frameworks, and for good reason. They’re both powerful frameworks with a large support community and helpful additional tools and resources. React Native goes beyond the fundamentals of a JavaScript framework to make React components work inside mobile apps, compiling directly to native code for Android and iOS.

Another framework that has similarities to Angular and React has grown in popularity in 2018: Vue.js. It has quickly become one of the fastest growing open source projects on GitHub as more developers gravitate toward its smoother learning curve and simpler setup.

While not a complete framework, another fast-growing open source library in 2018 is Polymer. Polymer allows developers to create custom elements that work like standard DOM elements. It’s interoperable with the popular frameworks and embraces JavaScript modules and npm.

Another cross-platform open source project that won’t surprise many developers in making this list is Electron.  Electron allows developers to build desktop applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, like they would for web apps. Electron is more popular than ever in 2018.


Machine Learning

Data science and machine learning are also growing trends for developers, and 2018 has seen interest in machine learning at its highest point ever. When it comes to getting started with machine learning, you’d be hard pressed to find a library and framework that gets more praise or recommendations than Google’s TensorFlow. TensorFlow enables high-performance numerical computation, and the framework itself is written in C++. The library of machine learning models, however, are all written in Python. Chances are, there’s already a model that fits your dataset and using TensorFlow is just a matter of training the algorithm on your data. But TensorFlow also allows you to write your own algorithms.

Along with TensorFlow, we’d be remiss not to mention the Keras project, which has seen massive growth in 2018. Keras runs atop TensorFlow, and it enables anyone to build a neural network. Keras enables AI researchers to go from idea to implementation as quickly as possible.

Another deep neural network open source project that has exploded onto the scene this year is PyTorch. It’s currently in early release beta, but it already ranks second in GitHub’s list of fastest growing projects.  PyTorch is an alternative to TensorFlow that allows researchers to make changes to their network definitions on the fly, instead of having to start from scratch when they want to change the model.



Blockchain is another area of development that has seen a lot of interest. Of course, the most famous open source blockchain project is Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin is arguably the most simple blockchain project out there, since the protocol only creates and allows users to transact digital coins. A more interesting and complex project is something like Ethereum, which allows developers around the world to build blockchain-based decentralized applications atop the Ethereum blockchain in exchange for a small fee paid to the network.

Ethereum is the leading platform for decentralized applications, but it still has a long way to go before it’s ready to handle the load of enterprise usage. On that front, the open source Hyperledger project is creating a library of decentralized ledger tools and protocols so that any industry can build and use blockchain. The Linux Foundation runs the Hyperledger project, and it has the backing of some of the biggest companies in the world.

Another open source decentralized internet project is IPFS. Short for InterPlanetary File System, IPFS is creating a new protocol to replace HTTP. Instead of connecting to the internet via a single computer at a time, IPFS proposes getting pieces of a web page or video stream from multiple computers simultaneously, cutting streaming costs and load times in half.


The Internet of Things

Smart devices, sensors, voice assistants, and autonomous gadgets are here to stay. The Internet of things is rapidly changing our world from home security to manufacturing to agriculture to autonomous driving.

Open source projects have sprung up to meet the demand for software that powers IoT. Frameworks like Kaa and ThingsBoard collect data from an IoT network and allow you to process, manage, and visualize the data and your network. Other projects like Node-RED help with setting up an IoT network. Node-RED shows which devices are connected to your network and what paths they take to share information.

Perhaps most exciting in the IoT space, however, is open source hardware. There are dozens of projects building various types of sensors and robotics to enable the IoT future. At the core of all of these sensors, there must be a computer chip. No one is more famous than Arduino for their open source small-scale computing hardware.


Backend & Security

For as many projects as there are in front-end development, there’s an equal or greater number in the security, infrastructure, and optimization of an application’s backend.

Kubernetes, another Google-born open source project, has seen a lot of growth over the past few years and remains a major force in container orchestration in 2018. Similarly, Node.js continues to grow as a way to create a purely JavaScript application, both front end and back end. Most developers won’t be surprised to see those open source projects make this list as they’re becoming increasingly mainstream.

Developers may be less familiar with a project like netdata, which has seen a lot of growth over 2018, up to 965,000 unique users, but is still lesser known. Netdata gives real-time metrics on everything happening on a system as it runs via a web dashboard. It also supports monitoring ephemeral nodes and auto-scaled containers so you can get a view of your application’s requests and CPU, storage, and bandwidth requirements on a single dashboard.

Yet another project on the rise in 2018 is Vault from HashiCorp. Vault is an open source secret management tool. You can use it to store user information, dynamically assign secrets, and revoke secrets as needed.


2018 & Beyond

2018 was a strong year for open source. With the pace that software moves, however, we may be talking about completely different projects this time next year. It’s an exciting time to be learning about and keeping up with open source. Dive into these projects. Use them and contribute to them and help the open source movement to grow.


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