It occurred to me that perhaps (just perhaps) other people weren’t as interested in open hardware as myself. Well, what do the numbers show?
According to Google Trends, “open source hardware” has more or less increased (slightly) every year since the beginning of 2007. Large spikes in popularity, which are the main reason for the average increase, began in 2010. The largest spike in interest seems to be this article on CNET, Open Source Hardware Standards Formally Issued.
Something I totally didn’t expect is that, by far, the country responsible for the most interest in “open source hardware” is Malaysia (the USA does make it into the top 5, but only barely). Marang, Malaysia is apparently the city that is driving the world’s interest in open hardware.
However, that must be due to some weirdness in Google’s numbers. Or maybe Malaysia simply got really interested in OSH a while back? I dunno. But if you restrict the range to the last few years the USA becomes the only country searching for “open source hardware.”
The more generic term “open source” is much more popular and is more popular in a wider variety of places. Not too surprisingly the top search term is “open source software.”
Comparing “open source hardware” to “open source” is revealing. I know that open source in general isn’t well known, and that OSH isn’t well known even among people who know about open source, but the difference in search volume is striking.
I wonder if this is proof that OSH is just a niche interest. At any rate, it’s proof that this topic isn’t going to make anyone famous. At least…the generic subject isn’t popular. A more specific topic, one that people are more likely to be personally interested in, something that is tangible and exciting, can help draw interest to open source hardware.
I am referring, of course, to 3D printers and Arduinos. These are probably the two most popular subject areas to emerge from the larger philosophy of OSH. As you can see, the interest in those subjects dwarfs interest in the subject that inspired them. Or…maybe they inspired the subject of OSH?
Bottom line: if you’re going to try to explain open source hardware to someone, start with Arduino and maybe 3D printers.