open-source software

Open source software is computer software which source code is available under a license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that meets the Open source definition. This permits users to use, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. It is often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open Source software is the most prominent example of open source development and often compared to user generated content.[1]


Main article: Open source movement

The free software movement was launched in 1983. In 1998, a group of individuals advocated that the term free software be replaced by open source software (OSS) as an expression which is less ambiguous and more comfortable for the corporate world.[2] Software developers may want to publish their software with an open source software license, so that anybody may also develop the same software or understand how it works. Open source software generally allows anybody to make a new version of the software, port it to new operating systems and processor architectures, share it with others or market it. The aim of open source is to let the product be more understandable, modifiable, duplicatable, reliable or simply accessible, while it is still marketable.

The Open Source Definition, notably, presents an open-source philosophy, and further defines a boundary on the usage, modification and redistribution of open-source software. Software licenses grant rights to users which would otherwise be prohibited by copyright. These include rights on usage, modification and redistribution. Several open-source software licenses have qualified within the boundary of the Open Source Definition. The most prominent example is the popular GNU General Public License (GPL). While open source presents a way to broadly make the sources of a product publicly accessible, the open-source licenses allow the authors to fine tune such access.

The "open source" label came out of a strategy session held in Palo Alto in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator (as Mozilla). A group of individuals at the session included Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, John Hall, Sam Ockman, Christine Peterson and Eric S. Raymond. They used the opportunity before the release of Navigator's source code to clarify a potential confusion caused by the ambiguity of the word "free" in English. The 'open source' movement is generally thought to have begun with this strategy session. Many people, nevertheless, claimed that the birth of the Internet, since 1969, started the open source movement, while others do not distinguish between open source and free software movements.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), started in 1985, intended the word 'free' to mean "free as in free speech" and not "free as in free beer." Since a great deal of free software already was (and still is) free of charge, such free software became associated with zero cost, which seemed anti-commercial.

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was formed in February 1998 by Eric S. Raymond and Bruce Perens. With at least 20 years of evidence from case histories of closed development versus open development already provided by the Internet, the OSI presented the 'open source' case to commercial businesses, like Netscape. The OSI hoped that the usage of the label "open source," a term suggested by Peterson of the Foresight Institute at the strategy session, would eliminate ambiguity, particularly for individuals who perceive "free software" as anti-commercial. They sought to bring a higher profile to the practical benefits of freely available source code, and they wanted to bring major software businesses and other high-tech industries into open source. Perens attempted to register "open source" as a service mark for the OSI, but that attempt was impractical by trademark standards. Meanwhile, thanks to the presentation of Raymond's paper to the upper management at Netscape (Raymond only discovered when he read the Press Release, and was called by Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale's PA later in the day), Netscape released its Navigator source code as open source, with favorable results.


In his 1997 essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar[3], open-source evangelist Eric S. Raymond suggests a model for developing OSS known as the Bazaar model. Raymond likens the development of software by traditional methodologies to building a cathedral, "fully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation"<ref name="ray2000" />. He suggests that all software should be developed using the bazaar style, which he described as "a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches."

In the Cathedral, model development takes place in a centralized way. Roles are clearly defined. Roles include people dedicated to designing (the architects), people responsible for managing the project, and people responsible for implementation. Traditional software engineering follows the Cathedral model. Fred P. Brooks in his book The Mythical Man-Month advocates this sort of model. He goes further to say that in order to preserve the architectural integrity of a system, the system design should be done by as few architects as possible.

The Bazaar model, however, is different. In this model, roles are not clearly defined. Gregorio Robles[4] suggests that software developed using the Bazaar model should exhibit the following patterns:
Users should be treated as co-developers
The users are treated like co-developers and so they should have access to the source code of the software. Furthermore users are encouraged to submit additions to the software, code fixes for the software, bug reports, documentation etc. Having more co-developers increases the rate at which the software evolves. Linus's law states that, "Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow." This means that if many users view the source code they will eventually find all bugs and suggest how to fix them. Note that some users have advanced programming skills, and furthermore, each user's machine provides an additional testing environment. This new testing environment offers that ability to find and fix a new bug. ; Early Releases : The first version of the software should be released as early as possible so as to increase one's chances of finding co-developers early. ; Frequent Integration : New code should be integrated as often as possible so as to avoid the overhead of fixing a large number of bugs at the end of the project life cycle. Some Open Source projects have nightly builds where integration is done automatically on a daily basis. ; Several Versions : There should be at least two versions of the software. There should be a buggier version with more features and a more stable version with fewer features. The buggy version (also called the development version) is for users who want the immediate use of the latest features, and are willing to accept the risk of using code that is not yet thoroughly tested. The users can then act as co-developers, reporting bugs and providing bug fixes. The stable version offers the users fewer bugs and fewer features. ; High Modularization : The general structure of the software should be modular allowing for parallel development. ; Dynamic decision making structure : There is a need for a decision making structure, whether formal or informal, that makes strategic decisions depending on changing user requirements and other factors. Cf. Extreme programming.

Most well-known OSS products follow the Bazaar model as suggested by Eric Raymond. These include projects such as Linux, Netscape, Apache, the GNU Compiler Collection, and Perl to mention a few.


The term Ugrammer appears in the book Software Development Rhythms published by John Wiley and Sons and refers to programmers who are also the users of the software they develop. Very often it is the case that the programmers of software are not also its users and as a result many software models and implementation roadmaps put considerable emphasis on communication between users (i.e. customers) and programmers to ensure an adequate description of needs. When programmers are in fact ugrammers, however, this communication problem is somewhat obviated, or at least undergoes a change of nature. Ugramming is common in open source software development projects and offers a number of advantages, mostly revolving around the idea of more efficient communication and clearer specifications. A short list of these advantages would include:
  • Eliminating the programmer-user communication gap
  • A more user-sensitive categorization of must have and nice to have.
  • Reduced documentation
  • Facilitates communication between ugrammers
  • Supports distributed software development
  • Easy to build rapport between ugrammers and users or programmers, making it easier to make use of both programmer and user comments...


Main article: Open-source license

Open source licenses define the privileges and restrictions a licensor must follow in order to use, modify or redistribute the open-source software. Open-source software includes software with source code in the public domain and software distributed under an open-source license.

Examples of open source licenses include Apache License, BSD license, GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License, MIT License, Eclipse Public License and Mozilla Public License.

The proliferation of open source licenses is one of the few negative aspects of the Open Source movement because it is often difficult to understand the legal implications of the differences between licenses.

Open source versus closed source

The open source vs. closed source (alternatively called proprietary software) debate is sometimes heated.

Making money through traditional methods, such as sale of the use of individual copies and patent royalty payment, is more difficult and sometimes impractical with open-source software. Some closed-source advocates see open-source software as damaging to the market of commercial software. This complaint is countered by a large number of alternative funding streams such as:
  • giving away the software and charging for installation and support (used by many Linux distributions)
  • make the software available as open-source so that people will be more likely to purchase a related product or service you do sell (e.g. vs StarOffice)
  • cost avoidance / cost sharing: many developers need a product, so it makes sense to share development costs (this is the genesis of the X Window System and the Apache web server)
Studies about security in open-source software versus closed-source software show that closed-source software have fewer advisories but open-source software usually has less time between flaw discovery and a patch or fix. Advocates of closed source argue that since no one is responsible for open-source software, there is no incentive or guarantee it will be fixed, and there is nobody to take responsibility for negligence. Open-source advocates argue that since the source code of closed-source software is not available, there is no way to know what security vulnerabilities or bugs may exist. However, having the source code for a program could also make it easier for a malicious person to discover security vulnerabilities that they can take advantage of (instead of reporting or fixing them.)

Open Source software versus free software

Critics have said that the term “Open Source” fosters an ambiguity of a different kind such that it confuses the mere availability of the source with the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute it. Developers have used the alternative terms Free/Open-Source Software (FOSS), or Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (FLOSS), consequently, to describe Open Source software which is also free software.

The term “Open Source” was originally intended to be trademarkable, however, the term was deemed too descriptive, so no trademark exists.[5] The OSI would prefer that people treat Open Source as if it were a trademark, and use it only to describe software licensed under an OSI approved license.[6] .

There have been instances where software vendors have labeled proprietary software as “Open Source” because it interfaces with popular OSS (such as Linux). Open Source advocates consider this to be both confusing and incorrect.

OSI Certified is a trademark licensed only to people who are distributing software licensed under a license listed on the Open Source Initiative's list.[7] There is also a graphic form of the trademark, shown at right.

Open Source software and free software are different terms for software which comes with certain rights, or freedoms, for the user. They describe two approaches and philosophies towards free software. Open Source and free software (or software libre) both describe software which is free from onerous licensing restrictions. It may be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction. Free software is not the same as freeware, software available at zero price.

The definition of Open Source software was written to be almost identical to the free software definition.[8] There are very few cases of software that is free software but is not Open Source software, and vice versa. The difference in the terms is where they place the emphasis. “Free software” is defined in terms of giving the user freedom. This reflects the goal of the free software movement. “Open Source” highlights that the source code is viewable to all and proponents of the term usually emphasize the quality of the software and how this is caused by the development models which are possible and popular among free and Open Source software projects.

Free software licenses are not written exclusively by the FSF. The FSF and the OSI both list licenses which meet their respective definitions of free software. Open Source software and free software share an almost identical set of licenses. One exception is an early version of the Apple Public Source License, which was accepted by the OSI but rejected by the FSF because it did not allow private modified versions; this restriction was removed in later version of the license. There are now new versions that are approved by both the OSI and the FSF.

The Open Source Initiative believes that more people will be convinced by the experience of freedom. The FSF believes that more people will be convinced by the concept of freedom. The FSF believes that knowledge of the concept is an essential requirement[9][10], insists on the use of the term free[11][12], and separates itself from the Open Source movement.[13][14] The Open Source Initiative believes that free has three meanings: free as in beer, free as in freedom, and free as in unsellable. The problem with the term “Open Source” is it says nothing about the freedom to modify and redistribute, so it is used by people who think that source access without freedom is a sufficient definition. This possibility for misuse is the case for most of the licences that make up Microsoft's “shared source” initiative, and to a lesser extent with the “license-free” software of Daniel J. Bernstein.

Open source versus source-available

Although the OSI definition of "open-source software" is widely accepted, a small number of people and organizations use the term to refer to software where the source is available for viewing, but which may not legally be modified or redistributed. Such software is more often referred to as source-available, or as shared source, a term coined by Microsoft in opposition to open source.

Michael Tiemann, president of OSI, had criticized [1] companies such as SugarCRM for promoting their software as "open source" when in fact it did not have an OSI-approved license. In SugarCRM's case, it was because the software is so-called "badgeware" [2] since it specified a "badge" that must be displayed in the user interface (SugarCRM has since switched to GPLv3[15]). Another example is Scilab, which calls itself "the open source platform for numerical computation" [3] but has a license [4] that forbids commercial redistribution of modified versions. Because OSI does not have a registered trademark for the term "open source", its legal ability to prevent such usage of the term is limited, but Tiemann advocates using public opinion from OSI, customers, and community members to pressure such organizations to change their license or to use a different term.

Other software that has source code available, but which is not Open Source, includes the qmail mail server, pine email client, and the Microsoft Windows Operating System.

Development tools

In OSS development the participants, who are mostly volunteers, are distributed amongst different geographic regions so there is need for tools to aid participants to collaborate in source code development. Often these tools are also available as OSS.

Revision control systems like Concurrent Versions System (CVS) and later Subversion (svn) are examples of tools that help centrally manage the source code files and the changes to those files for a software project.

Utilities that automate testing, compiling and bug reporting help preserve stability and support of software projects that have numerous developers but no managers, quality controller or technical support. Building systems that report compilation errors among different platforms include Tinderbox. Commonly used bugtrackers include Bugzilla and GNATS.

Tools like mailing lists, IRC, and instant messaging provide means of Internet communications between developers. The Web is also a core feature of all of the above systems. Some sites centralize all the features of these tools as a software development management system, including GNU Savannah, SourceForge, and BountySource.

Projects and organizations


For an extensive list of examples of open source software, see the List of open source software packages.

See also


1. ^ Time Magazine Dec 25 2006
2. ^ Eric S. Raymond (1998-02-08). Goodbye, "free software"; hello, "open source". Retrieved on 2007-02-14.
3. ^ Raymond E.S. (11 September 2000). "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". Retrieved 19 September 2004 from [5]
4. ^ Robles G. (2004). "A Software Engineering approach to Libre Software". Retrieved 20 April 2005 from [6]
5. ^ Nelson, Russell (2007-03-2). Certification Mark. The Open Source Initiative (OSI). Retrieved on 2007-07-22. “The Open Source Definition spells out the essential qualities of open source software. Unfortunately, the term "open source" itself is subject to misuse, and because it's descriptive, it can't be protected as a trademark (which would have been our first choice). Since the community needs a reliable way of knowing whether a piece of software really is open source, OSI is registering a trademark, Open Source Initiative Approved, for this purpose.
6. ^ Raymond, Eric S. (1998-11-22). OSI Launch Announcement. The Open Source Initiative (OSI). Retrieved on 2007-07-22. “These successes make the defense and management of the Open Source trademark a key issue for the whole community.
7. ^ Nelson, Russell (2006-09-19). Open Source Licenses by Category. The Open Source Initiative (OSI). Retrieved on 2007-07-22. “Open Source Licenses (by name or by category) comply with the Open Source Definition and are listed here after going through the approval process.
8. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “Nearly all open source software is free software; the two terms describe almost the same category of software. But they stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, because only free software respects the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only. It says that non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the free software movement, however, non-free software is a social problem, and moving to free software is the solution.
9. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-19). Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source?. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. 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.
10. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “These freedoms are vitally important. They are essential, not just for the individual users' sake, but because they promote social solidarity—that is, sharing and cooperation. They become even more important as more and more of our culture and life activities are digitized. In a world of digital sounds, images and words, free software comes increasingly to equate with freedom in general.
11. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-19). Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source?. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “Of course, the open source people have tried to deal with this by publishing a precise definition for the term, just as we have done for “free software.” But the explanation for “free software” is simple—a person who has grasped the idea of “free speech, not free beer” will not get it wrong again. There is no such succinct way to explain the official meaning of “open source” and show clearly why the natural definition is the wrong one.
12. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. 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.
13. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-19). Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source?. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2007-07-23. “We are not against the Open Source movement, but we don't want to be lumped in with them. We acknowledge that they have contributed to our community, but we created this community, and we want people to know this. We want people to associate our achievements with our values and our philosophy, not with theirs. We want to be heard, not obscured behind a group with different views. To prevent people from thinking we are part of them, we take pains to avoid using the word “open” to describe free software, or its contrary, “closed”, in talking about non-free software.
14. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-06-16). Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. 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.
15. ^ Vance, Ashlee (2007-07-25), "SugarCRM trades badgeware for GPL 3", The Register, <[7]

Further reading

  • Lui, K.M. and Chan, K.C.C. (2008) Software Development Rhythms: Harmonizing Agile Practices for Synergy, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-07386-5
  • Mikko Välimäki, The Rise of Open Source Licensing: A Challenge to the Use of Intellectual Property in the Software Industry, Turre Publishing (2005) download PDF file (free) or order hard copy from publisher

External links

Computer software is a general term used to describe a collection of computer programs, procedures and documentation that perform some task on a computer system. [1]
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source code (commonly just source or code) is any sequence of statements and/or declarations written in some human-readable computer programming language.
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The Open Source Definition is used by the Open Source Initiative to determine whether or not a software license can be considered open source. The definition was based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines, written and adapted primarily by Bruce Perens.
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Open source is a set of principles and practices that promote access to the design and production of goods and knowledge. The term is most commonly applied to the source code of software that is available to the general public with relaxed or non-existent intellectual property
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User generated content (UGC), also known as Consumer Generated Media (CGM) [1] or User created Content (UCC) [2] , refers to various kinds of media content, publicly available, that are produced by end-users [3] .
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The B>Open Source Initiative is an organization dedicated to promoting open-source software.

The organization was founded in February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond when Netscape Communications Corporation, published the source code for its flagship Netscape
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The free software movement is a new social movement which aims to protect the rights of users to access and modify software. Although drawing on traditions and philosophies among members of the 1970s hacker culture, Richard Stallman is widely credited with launching the movement in
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Free software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do these things.
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An open-source license is a copyright license for computer software that makes the source code available under terms that allow for modification and redistribution without having to pay the original author.
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The Open Source Definition is used by the Open Source Initiative to determine whether or not a software license can be considered open source. The definition was based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines, written and adapted primarily by Bruce Perens.
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Eric Steven Raymond (born December 4, 1957), often referred to as ESR, is a computer programmer, author and open source software advocate. His reputation within the hacker culture was established when he became the maintainer of the "Jargon File".
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The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit corporation founded on October 4, 1985 [1] by Richard Stallman to support the free software movement ("free" as in "freedom"), and in particular the GNU Project.
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The B>Open Source Initiative is an organization dedicated to promoting open-source software.

The organization was founded in February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond when Netscape Communications Corporation, published the source code for its flagship Netscape
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Bruce Perens at the World Summit on the
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The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Cover of the paperback compendium edition
Author Eric S. Raymond
Publisher O'Reilly Media
Publication date 1999
ISBN ISBN 1-56592-724-9
Followed by Homesteading the Noosphere

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Open-source advocacy is the practice of attempting to increase the awareness and improve the perception of open-source software. In some cases, this may be in opposition to proprietary software.
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