Redefining Open Source?

Portland at Dawn

There was a panel today at OSCON on Who gets to decide what open source means and it reminded me of experiences at Sun when I started in my current role. I kept meeting with marketing folks who thought "open source" was purely descriptive, and that they could define it any way that suited them. Each time I'd tell them no, that's not what Sun does, Sun only calls things "open source" when they are licensed using licenses approved by the Open Source Initiative as complying with the Open Source (License) Definition.

It's true that there's more to open source than that, but the overwhelming consensus of what Eben Moglen called the "republic of open source" is that a conforming license is a baseline requirement. They'd argue for a while, but in the end it always came down to this: if open source didn't mean something already, you'd not want to use the phrase for marketing. I didn't let the marketeers mess with it and neither should you.

Comments:

That's a good discussion. I wonder where the definition of "free software" fits into all of this. Sometimes it seems that "open source" is for companys what "free software" is for people/communities/countries that reap the benefits at the user level. Two sides of the coin ?

Posted by Rafael Vanoni on July 25, 2007 at 02:40 PM PDT #

I need to write about it some more, but I believe that Free software is what open source communities form around. In other words, no conflict, even if there are folk who try to make it look that way. Open source defines licensing and should define governance and other community factors. It's an open source republic and Free software is its currency.

Posted by Simon Phipps on July 25, 2007 at 04:51 PM PDT #

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