two decades of Open Source

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Open Source turned 20 today, and I'd like to point toward Christine Peterson (Foresight Institute co-founder) and her
personal account
of being "the originator of the term 'open source software':"

On February 2, 1998, Eric Raymond arrived on a visit to work with Netscape on the plan to release the browser code under a free-software-style license. We held a meeting that night at Foresight's office in Los Altos to strategize and refine our message. In addition to Eric and me, active participants included Brian Behlendorf, Michael Tiemann, Todd Anderson, Mark S. Miller, and Ka-Ping Yee. But at that meeting, the field was still described as free software or, by Brian, "source code available" software. [...] Between meetings that week, I was still focused on the need for a better name and came up with the term "open source software." While not ideal, it struck me as good enough. [...]

Later that week, on February 5, 1998, a group was assembled at VA Research to brainstorm on strategy. Attending--in addition to Eric Raymond, Todd, and me--were Larry Augustin, Sam Ockman, and attending by phone, Jon "maddog" Hall. [...]

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned "freely distributable" as an earlier term, and "cooperatively developed" as a newer term. Eric listed "free software," "open source," and "sourceware" as the main options. Todd advocated the "open source" model, and Eric endorsed this. I didn't say much, letting Todd and Eric pull the (loose, informal) consensus together around the open source name. [...] There was probably not much more I could do to help; Eric Raymond was far better positioned to spread the new meme, and he did. Bruce Perens signed on to the effort immediately, helping set up and playing a key role in spreading the new term.

For the name to succeed, it was necessary, or at least highly desirable, that Tim O'Reilly agree and actively use it in his many projects on behalf of the community. Also helpful would be use of the term in the upcoming official release of the Netscape Navigator code. By late February, both O'Reilly & Associates and Netscape had started to use the term.

"Coming up with a phrase is a small contribution," she demurs, "but I admit to being grateful to those who remember to credit me with it. Every time I hear it, which is very often now, it gives me a little happy twinge." ZDnet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols discusses Open Source and its impact, starting with Richard M. Stallman's "The GNU Manifesto" and the Free Software Foundation (FSF):

This went well for a few years, but inevitably, RMS collided with proprietary companies. The company Unipress took the code to a variation of his EMACS programming editor and turned it into a proprietary program. RMS never wanted that to happen again so he created the GNU General Public License (GPL) in 1989. This was the first copyleft license. It gave users the right to use, copy, distribute, and modify a program's source code. But if you make source code changes and distribute it to others, you must share the modified code. While there had been earlier free licenses, such as 1980's four-clause BSD license, the GPL was the one that sparked the free-software, open-source revolution.

In 1997, Eric S. Raymond published his vital essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." In it, he showed the advantages of the free-software development methodologies using GCC, the Linux kernel, and his experiences with his own Fetchmail project as examples. This essay did more than show the advantages of free software. The programming principles he described led the way for both Agile development and DevOps. Twenty-first century programming owes a large debt to Raymond.

"Open source has turned twenty," concludes Vaughan-Nichols, "but its influence, and not just on software and business, will continue on for decades to come."

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 3, 2018 2:02 PM.

the thin blue line's broken windows was the previous entry in this blog.

crumbs and windfalls is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


  • About
  • Contact
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.031