In 1999, Mark Spencer started Linux Support Services (LSS), an innovative small business that offered support for the Linux operating system. This was the height of the “Dot Com” era, and many start-up businesses were taking advantage of the open source operating system. LSS took off, and as it grew, Mark found that he needed a phone system.
Back in those days, phone systems were 100-percent proprietary. They were also expensive. Not wanting to take out a loan for a phone system he would probably outgrow in a matter of months, Mark decided to build his own PBX. Unlike proprietary phone systems, Mark’s solution was flexible software that took advantage of the power (and price point) of Linux. Mark named the project “Asterisk,” a reference to the wildcard character.
Within a year, the Dot-com bubble popped and the demand for Linux support dried up. Fortunately for Mark, interest in his software PBX had exploded. Linux Support Services quickly pivoted to focus on the growing demand for hardware and services related to Asterisk. The groundswell of interest in an open source telephony system grew into the Asterisk Community with thousands of developers and users who pitched in, providing patches, enhancements and valuable feedback. What started as a pragmatic solution to a cash-flow problem, turned into a revolution.
In the nearly 13 years since Mark released the initial Asterisk code, the PBX market has undergone a massive shift. Open standards now rule what was once a proprietary market. Expensive, limited proprietary PBX hardware as given way to commodity computers running powerful software. Digium has grown from being a niche player to competing with the biggest names in the PBX market.