There was a point in the past when there was nothing but the huge corporations out there, doing almost all of the work that got any attention. Now granted, there have always been hobbyists and tinkerers in their little work shops, doing what they want to do and solving all kinds of little problems that the big companies might not have even noticed (or just might not have especially cared about solving). But when it comes right down to it, how easily have those types of people ever been able to get any kind of attention for the work that they do? The work of the hobbyist has generally been a silent bit of service, which has more often than not gone unrecognized until a significant amount of time after the person has died of old age. Of course, this has changed substantially in the new era of the Internet, and the power that it has given the common people.
In this day and age, anybody at any point on the face of the Earth can upload some neat new thing that they have created (once again, in a disheveled work shop where there are columns of stuff to rival the walls of Pac Man levels). In this context, however, instead of needing to either work for or beg a major company to take up their project and advertise it, in the hopes of making some money (or even just helping the world a little bit), the Internet allows anybody to just send it out there, blog about it, post a few links in a few forums, and let the people decide if it sucks or rules.
After all, who else is more qualified to judge a piece of software than the people who are actually going to use it in their daily lives? There really is no other reasonable group of people who could do something of that nature. When the people decide, and even add onto a new thing that someone creates, that is what it looks like when the world rides the open source wave. Surf’s up.