Open Source

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Open source is a set of principles and practices on how to write software. Literally “open source” means the source code is available to the users. The Open Source Definition, which was created by Bruce Perens[1] and Eric Raymond and is currently maintained by the Open Source Initiative, adds additional meaning to the term. One should not only get the source code but also have the right to use it. If the latter is denied the license is categorized as a shared source license.



Deliberate spread of the term

While the term applied originally only to the source code of software,[2] it is now being applied to many other areas such as open source ecology, a movement to decentralize technologies so that any human can use them. However, it is often misapplied to other areas which have different and competing principles, which overlap only partially.

Advocates of the open source principles make constant and frequent efforts to disavow, deny, hide or limit the difference between the principles they advocate and those of the software libre and open content movements which demonstrably defy and deny several of the OSI principles. They have also often attempted to define vague terms like open source politics, open source culture and even to redefine open source (journalism) as open source journalism, also known as blogging.

Opponents of the spread of the label “open source”, including Richard Stallman, argue that the requirements and restrictions ensure the continuation of the effort, and resist attempts to redefine the labels. He argues also that most supporters of open source are actually supporters of much more equitable agreements and support re-integration of derived works and that most contributors do not intend to release their work to others who can extend it, hide the extensions, patent those very extensions, and demand royalties or restrict the use of all other users. All while not violating the open source principles with respect to the initial code they acquired.


Consensus, FLOSS and share-alike

Lawyers, taking their cue from Lawrence Lessig and Creative Commons, prefer the legally exact term share-alike to describe the types of restrictions and guarantees that free software and open content require that open source does not. Open source as a movement is agnostic about sharing as it does not compel any sharing or put conditions on sharing of improvements, nor prevent actions that prevent future sharing.

The term FLOSS has evolved to describe the technical attributes of the movement and its processes, without getting into the legal details above.


Perens' principles

See Open Source Definition for the exact operational definition and examples of licenses that satisfy, and do not satisfy, those principles.

Under Perens' definition, open source describes a broad general type of software license that makes source code available to the general public with relaxed or non-existent copyright restrictions. The principles at stated say absolutely nothing about trademark or patent use and require absolutely no cooperation to ensure that any common audit or release regime applies to any derived works. It is an explicit “feature” of open source that it may put no restrictions on either the use nor redistribution nor the organization or user whatsoever.

It forbids, in principle, to guarantee continued access to derived works even by the major original contributors. In contrast to free software or open content licenses, which are often confused with open source but have much more rigorous rules and conventions, open source deliberately errs in favour of allowing any use by any party whatsoever, and offers few or no means or recourses to prevent a free rider situation or deal with proliferation of bad copies that misled end users.

Perhaps because of this flexibility, which facilitates large commercial users and vendors, the most successful applications of open source have been in consortium. These use other means such as trademarks to control bad copies and require specific performance guarantees from consortium members to assure re-integration of improvements. Accordingly they do not need potentially conflicting clauses in licenses.

The loose definition has led to a proliferation of licenses that can claim to be open source but which would not satisfy the share alike provision that free software and open content licenses require. A very common license, the Creative Commons CC-by-nc-sa, requires a commercial user to acquire a separate license for for-profit use. This is explicitly against the open source principles, as it discriminates against a type of use or user. However, the requirement imposed by free software to reliably redistribute derived works, does not violate these principles. Accordingly, free software and consortium licenses are a type of open source, but open content isn't insofar as it allows such restrictions. Similar arguments have often been made about the GFDL used in Wikipedia:itself.


Non-software use

For forms of user generated content other than software, the open content movement has defined different principles and most supporters of that movement believe in some form of restriction of use and requirement to collaborate or at least reliably credit those individuals whose work is in use.

This “culture” or ideology takes the view that the principles apply more generally to facilitate concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities, in contrast with more centralized models of development such as those typically used in commercial companies.[3]

Advocates of the open source principles often point to Wikipedia as an example, but Wikipedia has in fact often restricted certain types of use or user, and the GFDL license it uses makes specific requirements of all users that technically violate the open source principles.



Very similar to open standards, researchers with access to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) used a process called Request for Comments to develop telecommunication network protocols. Characterized by contemporary open source work, this 1960's collaborative process led to the birth of the Internet in 1969. There are earlier instances of open source movements and free software such as IBM's source releases of its operating systems in the 1960s and the SHARE user group that formed to facilitate the exchange of such software.

The decision by some people in the free software movement to use the label “open source” came out of a strategy session[4] held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator. The group of individuals at the session included Christine Peterson who suggested “open source”, Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, and Eric S. Raymond. They used the opportunity before the release of Navigator's source code to free themselves of the ideological and confrontational connotations of the term free software. Netscape licensed and released its code as open source under the Netscape Public License and subsequently under the Mozilla Public License.[5]

The term “open source” has been used previously (as early as 1987) with a much wider definition[6][7] and is still used in that wider meaning by many people who do not necessarily accept the Open Source Initiative's more limited definition of the term.

The term was given a big boost at an event organized in April 1998 by technology publisher Tim O'Reilly. Originally titled the “Freeware Summit” and later known as the “Open Source Summit”,[8] the event brought together the leaders of many of the most important free and open source projects, including Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Eric Allman, Guido van Rossum, Michael Tiemann, Paul Vixie, Jamie Zawinski of Netscape, and Eric Raymond. At that meeting, the confusion caused by the name “free software” was brought up. Tiemann argued for “sourceware” as a new term, while Raymond argued for “open source.” The assembled developers took a vote, and the winner was announced at a press conference that evening. This milestone is widely seen as the birth of the Open Source Initiative.[citation needed]

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) formed in February 1998 by Raymond and Perens. With about 20 years of evidence from case histories of closed and open development already provided by the Internet, the OSI continued to present the 'open source' case to commercial businesses. They sought to bring a higher profile to the practical benefits of freely available source code, and wanted to bring major software businesses and other high-tech industries into open source. Perens adapted Debian's Free Software Guidelines to make the Open Source Definition.[9]

Critics have said that the term “open source” fosters an ambiguity between the mere availability of the source versus the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute it. Developers have used the term Free/Open-Source Software (FOSS), or Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (FLOSS), consequently, to describe open-source software that is freely available and free of charge. The more legally specific term share-alike emerged through Creative Commons to describe mutual obligations and loss of licenses through failure to act on them, which is the specific feature required by software libre that is not required of open source users/contributors.


Society and culture

The term open content is more universally used than the term open source culture coined by supporters of the OSI principles. Please see the main article under that name for applications of the general principles avowed by open source advocates to other cultural material.



The criticisms of the specific OSI principles are dealt with above as part of the definition and differentiation from other terms. The open content movement does not recognize nor endorse the OSI principles and embraces instead mutual share-alike agreements that require derived works to be re-integrated and treated equitably, e.g. not patented or [trademark]]ed to the detriment of the individual contributors/creators.

Critics of “Open Source” publishing cite the need for direct compensation for the work of creation. For example, the act of writing a book, building a complex piece of software, or producing a motion picture requires a substantial amount of labor. Retaining intellectual property rights over such works greatly increases the feasibility of obtaining financial compensation which covers the labor costs. The critics argue that without this compensation, many socially desirable and useful works would never be created in the first place. Some critics draw distinctions between areas where Open Source collaborations have successfully created useful products, such as general-purpose software, and areas where they see compensation as more important and collaboration as less important, such as highly specialized complex software projects, entertainment, or news.

Another criticism of the Open Source movement is that these projects are not really as self-organizing as their proponents claim. This argument holds that Open Source projects succeed only when they have a strong central manager, even if that manager is a volunteer. The article Open Source Projects Manage Themselves? Dream On. by Chuck Connell explains this viewpoint. Eric Raymond responded to this criticism, and Chuck Connell answered.

The legal and cultural criticisms are both addressed as part of a common set of objections and criticisms by those who prefer share-alike as an organizing principle. This includes Creative Commons which simply ignores the OSI principles and endorses licenses that clearly violate them such as CC-by-nc-sa.

Of the vocal critics, the Free Software Foundation (FSF)—whose GFDL license is used by Wikipedia:itself, flatly opposes the term “Open Source” being applied to what they refer to as “free software”. Although it's clear that legally free software does qualify as open source, the category is considered abusive. [10] They also oppose the professed pragmatism of the Open Source Initiative, as they fear that the free software ideals of freedom and community are threatened by compromising on the FSF's idealistic standards for software freedom.[11][12]


Business models

There are a number of commonly recognized barriers to the adoption of open source software by enterprises. These barriers include the perception that open source licenses are viral, lack of formal support and training, the velocity of change, and a lack of a long term roadmap. The majority of these barriers are risk-related. Many business models exist around open source software to provide a 'whole product' to help reduce these risks. The 'whole product' typically includes support, commercial licenses, professional services, training, certification, partner programs, references and use cases. These business models range from 'services only' organisations that do not participate in the development of the software to models where the majority of the software is created by full-time committers that are employed by a central organization. These business models have come into existence recently and their operation is not commonly understood. One model that has been developed to explain this is the Bee Keeper Model


See also


Further reading

  • Ron Goldman and Richard P. Gabriel (2005). Innovation Happens Elsewhere. Richard P. Gabriel. ISBN 1558608893. 


External links


  1. ^ Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) (2004-10-24). We speak about Free Software. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. “Bruce Perens, co-founder of the Open Source movement and author of the ‘Debian Free Software Guidelines’ and the ‘Open Source Definition’ asked us to add his name to the list and make it known that he also speaks about Free Software and supports the ‘We speak about Free Software’ campaign.”
  2. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-09-24). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. “However, not all of the users and developers of free software agreed with the goals of the free software movement. In 1998, a part of the free software community splintered off and began campaigning in the name of ‘open source.’ The term was originally proposed to avoid a possible misunderstanding of the term ‘free software,’ but it soon became associated with philosophical views quite different from those of the free software movement.”
  3. ^ Raymond, Eric S. The Cathedral and the Bazaar. ed 3.0. 2000.
  4. ^ History of the OSI. Open Source Initiative. 2006.
  5. ^ Muffatto, Moreno (2006). Open Source: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Imperial College Press. 1860946658. 
  6. ^ The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  7. ^ Looking for published DES code
  8. ^ Open Source Summit Linux Gazette. 1998.
  9. ^ Perens, Bruce. Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. O'Reilly Media. 1999.
  10. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “As the advocates of open source draw new users into our community, we free software activists have to work even more to bring the issue of freedom to those new users' attention. We have to say, ‘It's free software and it gives you freedom!’—more and louder than ever. Every time you say ‘free software’ rather than ‘open source,’ you help our campaign.”
  11. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-19). Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source”. Philosophy of the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “Sooner or later these users will be invited to switch back to proprietary software for some practical advantage. Countless companies seek to offer such temptation, and why would users decline? Only if they have learned to value the freedom free software gives them, for its own sake. It is up to us to spread this idea—and in order to do that, we have to talk about freedom. A certain amount of the ‘keep quiet’ approach to business can be useful for the community, but we must have plenty of freedom talk too.”
  12. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “Under the pressure of the movie and record companies, software for individuals to use is increasingly designed specifically to restrict them. This malicious feature is known as DRM, or Digital Restrictions Management (see, and it is the antithesis in spirit of the freedom that free software aims to provide. […] Yet some open source supporters have proposed ‘open source DRM’ software. Their idea is that by publishing the source code of programs designed to restrict your access to encrypted media, and allowing others to change it, they will produce more powerful and reliable software for restricting users like you. Then it will be delivered to you in devices that do not allow you to change it. This software might be ‘open source,’ and use the open source development model; but it won't be free software, since it won't respect the freedom of the users that actually run it. If the open source development model succeeds in making this software more powerful and reliable for restricting you, that will make it even worse.”
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