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How Open is Open Source Really?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the buzzwords-and-the-companies-that-kill-them dept.

Software 151

jg21 writes to tell us that several industry leaders have chimed in with a response to Nat Torkington's recent piece "Is 'Open Source' Now Completely Meaningless". In the original piece Torkington raised the question of whether the term "open source" had lost any meaning because of companies that use the label yet largly restrict user interaction. Sun's Simon Phpps chimed in by stating: "I see open source as a term relevant to the way communities function and I'd support the reunification of the terms 'Free' and 'open source' around the concept of Free software being developed in open source communities. On that basis it's not dead."

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151 comments

Frist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18183844)

Psot

Chimed in.... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184338)

Sun's Simon Phpps chimed in by stating:

There's a definite fascination with chimes on /. lately. It's been getting on mine.

Open Source means you get the code, that's it (3, Insightful)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183886)

I see open source as a term relevant to the communities function ...

Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute, no guarantee that the vendor pays attention to you. The list goes on. You can have closed source with an open process (I think the Java Community Process is a good example of this), open source with open process (Python and their Python Enhancement Proposals) and open source with a closed process (XFree86, the reason we have X.org today and the old gcc before it was replaced by egcs. Even free software doesn't guarantee the openness in the process that you might want, as the case with the old gcc clearly illustrates. If community is important to you, that should be part of your selection criteria, not something that you let surprise you after you have picked.

Amen! (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183924)

I'm utterly tired of people not involved with a movement trying to redefine it. Open Source has been around for a lot longer than Free Software. In fact, it used to be the norm in a lot of areas.

Re:Amen! (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184362)

Actually, SCO [slashdot.org] (back when it was called Caldera) invented Open Source back in 1996 [google.com] . Yes, that's before the OSI thing, though after the foundation of the FSF.

Scary, huh?

Re:Amen! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184572)

People were distributing code to customers with their programs before SCO even existed. Even if they had coined the term, which they did not (they called the product Open, but then, they did the same thing with SCO Open Deathtrap. Now where did I put my Open Deathtrap Shower Phone?)

who invented open source? (4, Informative)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185764)

Actually, SCO [slashdot.org] (back when it was called Caldera) invented Open Source back in 1996 [google.com]. Yes, that's before the OSI thing, though after the foundation of the FSF.

The Tech Model Railroad Club [mit.edu] of MIT had open source software as early as the 1960s and early 1970s beating out SCO by a long shot. The first computer game, Spacewar [duke.edu] , came out in 1962 as a result of many programmers' contributions in an open manner. They used to compeat to see who could come up with a nifty hack, something that was considered impossible, never thought of, or was able to shave a few lines out of a program. Those programmer were amoung the first computer hackers and followed the Hacker ethic [antionline.com] .

Falcon

Re:who invented open source? (2, Interesting)

mackyrae (999347) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185868)

Isn't the way they worked very close to Free Software, though? They would show their code to anyone, and anyone who could improve it was allowed to, etc. Open Source doesn't necessarily mean you're allowed to improve it.

Re:who invented open source? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187048)

Isn't the way they worked very close to Free Software, though? They would show their code to anyone, and anyone who could improve it was allowed to, etc. Open Source doesn't necessarily mean you're allowed to improve it.

It was both free and open. Many would leave a copy of the code near the terminals so anyone else could look at and try to make improvements to the code. They were then expected to do the same thing. Steven Levy wrote a good book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution [amazon.com] , on this. It goes into both the software and hardware hackers.

Falcon

Re:who invented open source? (1)

mackyrae (999347) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187322)

I know. I'm reading that book right now :)

Steven Levy's book on hackers (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187420)

I know. I'm reading that book right now :)

I loved the book and read it when it first came out, in the '80s if I recall right. Damn, my memory is bad, so it might of been in the '90s.

Falcon

Re:Amen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184474)

I'm just utterly tired of people who are involved with a movement. Any movement.

Re:Amen! (1)

torpor (458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184516)

I'm utterly tired of people not involved with a movement trying to redefine it.

Why? This is normal. It happens with everything. The outside-observers, looking at a particular realm, feel that they are the ones who are best suited to define it.. while those within a particular realm, by definition, have moved on from the 'definition' stage and are actively participating.

Its the nature of the beast, yo. Participate, or spectate. From both positions, you can define something. Its up to each individual realm - of spectatorship, or participatorship - to become the more 'dominant' reality among the broader public.

A clever individual, observing some new realm, can most definitely differentiate between spectatorship and participatorship on the basis of their own desires. Either you join in and use and participate, or you stick to the outside and just bitch and moan, or congratulate and praise ..

My advice: get over it. As many wise men have said, apropos Open Source, "those who wrote the code, get to say what happens with the code", while many others say, "those who use the code, own the code.."

Re:Amen! (3, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185692)

A perfect example of the dichotomy you describe would be real industry participators in the standards process versus Microsoft's vision of the standards process. Most companies form panels, or working groups to develop standards. As the standards and technologies change, a consensus is reached and a standard revision is created, approved, and published. This keeps the standard relevant while making it available to all industry participants.

For MS, this involves building a product, calling it a de facto standard and then trying to get it approved formally by a standards body. This is irregardless of the fact that MS allows basically *ZERO* industry participation in developing their 'standards' before they are submitted for approval.

No kidding! (3, Interesting)

CasperIV (1013029) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184576)

It's just outside forces wanting to push an agenda... It just doesn't work as well in the computer industry due to an overall higher intelligence level then the political arena.

Re:No kidding! (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186764)

It probably isn't a good idea to combine such a statement with basic word usage errors.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (4, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183988)

Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute...
You just contradicted yourself. You might want to go and read the Open Source Definition [opensource.org] , which does state that if a license is to be OSI certified, it must allow modification and redistribution under the same license.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184386)

That said, neither "open source" nor "free" requires the publically accessible development repositories the author is demanding.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184422)

So? You have the source. You can do what you want with it right? Who needs the repositories? Just make your own. If you have to fork off the development, that's what it takes.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184728)

So?

So, the article we're discussing is nonsensical, that's what's "so".

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (2, Informative)

atamido (1020905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184740)

Open Source Definition, which does state that if a license is to be OSI certified, it must allow modification and redistribution under the same license.

I've met a number of people that make the distinction between "open source" and "source available". "Source available" simply means that you can view the source code, but not redistribute it, or not compile and distribute the binaries.

Not quite (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187044)

Last I checked, the Qmail license was OSI certified. You cannot under that licence distribute modified versions under the same license. You can distribute patches to the software under the same license however. This may seem to be quibbling with definitions but....

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (4, Interesting)

liliafan (454080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184010)

I used to work for a web development company that advertised themselves as "the opensource web company".

Their idea of how they were an opensource company was because they used php to develop code, and, because when a site was written they gave the client ownership of the code.

No matter how much we employees tried to explain that didn't make us an opensource company the powers that be refused to listen. It was made worse by the fact that the president of the company was invited to DC to testify on the benefits of opensource.

Our contracts even stated that code developed in our own time was the property of the company, and the company policy was that no code developed could be released to the opensource community at large.

It can be really frustrating to have such a loose term as 'opensource' where a company can choose to interpret it in such a way as to benefit them and no one else, or companies that simply fail to understand the concept.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (4, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184140)

This comes down to the question of just how open do you have to be. Some people say GPL isn't enough, because it restricts how you can redistribute the code, and only think that BSD like licenses are really open source. Seems to me like your employer was trying to do the right thing, but giving the source code to the people who bought the program, but didn't want to have the code available to everyone, just those who had paid for the product. It's just another level of open source. It may not be as open as GPL or BSD, but it's way more open than MS Windows, where you don't get any option to view or change the source at all. Even MS has stuff they tout as open source, called shared source, but that's about as least open as you get, while still getting to look at the code.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (2, Informative)

init100 (915886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185528)

Seems to me like your employer was trying to do the right thing, but giving the source code to the people who bought the program, but didn't want to have the code available to everyone, just those who had paid for the product. It's just another level of open source. It may not be as open as GPL or BSD

Actually, the GPL allows distributing the source to your customers (i.e. recipients of your software) only, and does not require distribution to anyone else. Of course, the GPL requires that your customers can redistribute to anyone they like, which may not have been the case here.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184158)

Our contracts even stated that code developed in our own time was the property of the company, and the company policy was that no code developed could be released to the opensource community at large.

Congratulations on not understanding the difference between Open Source and Free Software.

Here's a hint: If you give the source to the customer, it's Open Source.

If you're giving the source to everyone, it's probably Free Software. But that depends on the terms under which you distribute it.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (2, Informative)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184342)

Nonsense. The GPL doesn't give any rights to persons who do not obtain the software. So if you do work for a customer and distribute it only to them, including the source and redistribution rights, it meets the definition of Free Software. This has NEVER meant that you are obligated to send the code to anyone who asks.

Sure, your customer has the right to distribute the code if they wish, but even if they do, they are only obligated to provide source code to the parties that they distribute the software to directly.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184546)

Nonsense. The GPL doesn't give any rights to persons who do not obtain the software.

No, but it does give you the right to distribute the code to third parties if you wish, so long as the license is retained (along with the copyright info to give it meaning.) The author is simply not obligated to do so. This is the primary difference between Free Software and Open Source; in the latter case the code can be encumbered with a license that prohibits redistribution. In the former case, it cannot.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

liliafan (454080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185138)

Congratulations on not understanding the difference between Open Source and Free Software.


Here's a hint: If you give the source to the customer, it's Open Source.


If you're giving the source to everyone, it's probably Free Software. But that depends on the terms under which you distribute it.

If you contract a person to develop a website for you in php how it is possible to give them the site without it being visible sourcecode? When the small print in the clients contract specifically denies them the right to redistribute the code (which I failed to mention originally) you could not be a lot further from open source.

Yes I will concede the point that on a technicality providing the source code (which is unavoidable in their situation) means you are giving them 'open source code', however, you are just highlighting my point that the company is interpreting the term 'open source' to technically be able to get away with it whilst totally sidestepping the spirit of what open source means to the community at large.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (2, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185280)

That sounds like the original meaning of open source. (Notice that I didn't capitalize it?)

OSI redefined the term Open Source to be something different, but the term existed before they did, and they just redefined it. Open source originally just meant that if you bought the product you could see the code. I think the concept goes back to IBM mainframes in the 1950's, but it might go back further. At that time people didn't automatically get copyright, and most code wasn't copyrighted. If the company shared it's source code with you, you could legally do whatever you wanted, but all it generally promissed was that the code was available. Sometimes it was copyrighted, and if it was available, it still qualified.

I'm about to introduce a few new acronyms. Pardon me, but in this discussion more precision seems necessary:

Things have gotten a lot more complex with the extension of copyrights to longer terms, and of copyright laws into more areas, and, of course, lets not forget patents. Just wanting them to go away won't make them do so. The BSD license is the license most equivalent to the early "open source" licenses. It was against this historic background that Stallman got irritated because he couldn't get a printer driver, and created F(L)&OSS. (Parse that as Free (Libre) *and* Open Software Source. The & is a logical conjuction implying BOTH.) The Open Source people were a reaction against F(L)&OSS, because they didn't like the requirements that the software be Free (Libre), just as F(L)&OSS was a reaction against increasingly closed software. They didn't mind showing the code...in fact some of them depended on it, but they wanted to maintain control over how it was used. This is roughly analogous to how back before it bacame an anti-virus company Symantec code used to come with libraries that could only be used with Symantec IDEs. (MS copied and improved on that trick.) Symantec'd give you the source code to the libraries, but you would need to rewrite them to use them with another company's IDE...and Symantec held the copyrights, so you would need to REALLY do a rewrite if you wanted to make legally redistributable code. (Symantec granted you the right to distribute the code if you built it with their tools.) This was clearly Open Source, even though OSI hadn't yet been formed, and the term hadn't been given "Official Sanction And Blessing". (?? What makes a company any more "official" than a citizen? Still, that seems to be the usage.)

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184136)

Blatantly false; Read the OSI definition yourself. [opensource.org]

The top three points are: Free Redistribution, Source Code, and Derived Wroks.

This research took all of 30 seconds.

Vendors don't have to listen to you, but you definitely have to be allowed to redistribute.

The segregation of Free Software and OpenSource software was a strategic decision: Free Software and rms argue from a moral standpoint (software should be free, proprietary software is wrong,) Open Source argues from an economic&quality standpoint (this is a better & cheaper way to do things.)

I think there is another distinction too (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187104)

between open source and community development. For example, MySQL is open source, but community development is limited by licensing restrictions. In fact MySQL uses the GPL to force people to buy proprietary licenses from them (not very Free).

SQL-Ledger is open source, but again, there is only one guy doing any real development work and he does not seem to like too many contributions (except in limited areas such as translation). Again, open source, but not community-developed.

There are many other cases of people trying to do open source without community development. I don't think the result is ever very good.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

OurNewOverloard (984041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184248)

The term Open Source was created to appeal to the corporate types - to hide the ideals of freedom put forward by the Free Sofwtare Movement. I am not shocked to see the corporates use it as some form of marketing term - that's all it ever was. It's a safe meaningless slogan of the form "whiter whites".

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

wootest (694923) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184408)

Not really, since there are plenty of actual open source developers - like yours truly - that don't want to subscribe to the militia-style enforced 'freedom' preservation, but who do want the pragmatic benefits of making source available and helping others. As many people have commented, open source has its own definition [opensource.org] - that it was ever simply a 'mispronouncement' of Free Software and doesn't thrive on its own merit is bullshit. (Yes, even if some people will write 'open source' when you tell them to write 'Free Software'.)

That's not to say that there aren't people that misrepresent the concept of "open source" to gain benefits or goodwill. If this surprises you, welcome to the free market as driven by humans.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18185498)

Not really, since there are plenty of actual open source developers - like yours truly - that don't want to subscribe to the militia-style enforced 'freedom' preservation, but who do want the pragmatic benefits of making source available and helping others.
MIT makes a wonderfull Free Software license, be asured that we enjoy the practical benefits of freedom, one of wich is the ability to help others, imensly.

That's not to say that there aren't people that misrepresent the concept of "open source" to gain benefits or goodwill. If this surprises you, welcome to the free market as driven by humans.
Not really, a free market is impossible without free infomation, welcome to the profit market wherew profit maximization is the holy grail, not mutual benefit.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18187078)

Actually, I think the Free Software Movement does a pretty good job of obfuscating what they're up to on their own. "Free" software gets the attention of corporate types because they think "Free as in beer". If "free" software wasn't essentially 0$ to acquire, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (0, Redundant)

the_womble (580291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184976)

Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute

Completely and utterly wrong - and you still get modded +5 insightful!

Read the introduction to the Open Source Initiative's definition of open source [opensource.org] - it says "Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code"

Then read the first clause. See the title "Free Redistribution"? Guess what that means. While you are about it take a look at clause 3 "Derived Works".

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (0, Redundant)

trifish (826353) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185354)

Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute

You are wrong. Find some time to read the OSI definition of Open Source [opensource.org] :

"The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software."

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (0, Redundant)

dpilgrim (545299) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185990)

Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute
Please RTFM. If you're going to have an opinion, make it an informed one. From the OSI's website [opensource.org] , this is taken from Clause 2 of the Open Source Definition:

"The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form."

Note that the Open Source Definition also requires that distribution of modifications in source form must be allowed.

No, the real difference between Open Source advocates and Free Software advocates is on a philosophical level. Open Source advocates proclaim that as a software development methodology, open source offers advantages in certain contexts. No overarching moral claim is made about the software, its developers, or its consumers. Free Software advocates tend to agree with the methodological point, but go further in pronouncing that there is some sort of basic right to source code that people have. This is a moral claim, and hence not something that can be resolved as a matter of fact. You either subscribe to that moral view of the world, or you don't. Most businesses do not subscribe to that view of the world, and most open source advocates remain agnostic. Thus Open Source tends to be a more business-friendly view of the world than Free Software.

Re:Open Source means you get the code, that's it (1)

CDarklock (869868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186842)

> you don't get to define what open source means.
> The Open Source Initiative has that luxury

Excuse me, but no, they don't.

OSI doesn't get to tell me what "open" means. We agree on what "source" means, but that word "open" is sort of like that word "free". I think "open" means "you can get the source whether you pay or not". (PHPFox doesn't meet this definition, and I take issue with their use of the term "open source".) If I say my project is "open source", that means you get to look at the source even if you never pay me a dime or even agree to any license. If you need a license to see the source, it's not open.

It's that easy. It's that simple. It's that basic.

Now, the open source licenses we have are not really about seeing the source. They're about CHANGING the source and DISTRIBUTING the source. That's not part of what I think "open" means. I think those are a whole different question. So an "open source" project, in my opinion, might still not be something you're explicitly allowed to change and redistribute. It might require a license to change and redistribute, just like OSI says - that's what the existing open source licenses cover.

But it's NOT what makes them open. And OSI doesn't get to say it is, no matter how much they stomp and whine.

Besides, Russ Nelson rocks, and anyone who would oust him as president for politically incorrect views is just retarded. Sure, he "resigned", but only under pressure from the dipshits who were more worried about his political credentials than his skill and insight as an open source philosopher.

Why is this hard? (2, Insightful)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183938)

If you say you are 'Open Source', then it seems to me you have to have sources that are open and not closed. So if you can't download it (or the recipe for for it as in Open Source Beer), then its not open. Period. End of story.

Re:Why is this hard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184734)

Instead of how open is open source, the title should have been how closed is closed source?

Verbiage (2, Interesting)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183966)

I'm strange, but I prefer to call it "free and open software" - that way there is no doubt in people's minds wtf I'm talking about.

-uso.

You're not strange in that (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184970)

I agree, "Open source" is to vague a term. Its better to refer to your licencing, if one says it has the GPL-licence, it is for instance perfectly clear. (for less well-known licences, some short description is a good idea) Another thing that people seem to associate with "Open source" is that the community developing it is open to people joining/contributing. Maybe they should call that "Open development" instead. (as suggested in article, hadnt read that part yet :) )

Diff between OSS and FL/OSS (3, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183974)

Just because you can see the code doesn't mean you can contribute.

Not only that, but just because the code is open doesn't mean it's accessible [re: properly written/designed]. Shitty code, even though it's open, can disuade newcomers to develop.

For OSS or libre software to be truly effective it has to target key problems and stay on focus. It also has to be written/documented to encourage new developers to learn from it and add to it. I suspect on projects like the Kernel and GCC there are many "old farts" who lead most of the significant development. In 20-30 years who will replace them if nobody can learn from what they have done?

Tom

Re:Diff between OSS and FL/OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18185262)

> I suspect on projects like the Kernel and GCC there are many "old farts" who lead most of the significant development. In > 20-30 years who will replace them if nobody can learn from what they have done?

Youre absolutely right.

This is one of the myths of "open source", the statement that people are welcome to contribute. First of all, coding in the kernel(or any very elaborate project) involves a steep learning curve yet you have very little support from the so-called community.

The "establishment" of a given project is very self-involved and one requires a lot of self-teaching(and will) before actually knowing WHERE/HOW one could contribute

personnally, I find this counter-productive for community developed software as most proprietary software companies will do exactly that(allow you in a large project and help you along) AND they will pay you for it...

Your point about community is well taken (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187184)

We forked LedgerSMB because we were unable to get the maintainer of SQL-Ledger to take seriously any real contributions from others. Certainly documentation and code quality are major aspects in attracting a developer base.

However, I think the bigger issue is that one needs to run a project so that it is open to a community of developers. This means encouraging and offering personal assistance to developers, it means respecting other community members, and it means valuing contribution. If these things are missing, the project will never really have open development.

Extreme open source (3, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183978)

In the original piece Torkington raised the question of whether the term "open source" had lost any meaning because of companies that use the label yet largly restrict user interaction.

Just because some people disagree with or don't understand the term "open source" doesn't mean it becomes worthless. All it means is that some people don't quite get it yet.

It's like the word "extreme", which marketing has over the last few years beaten to death. Extreme doesn't mean anything anymore to most people - the mind simply edits it out. But that doesn't mean that the word is suddenly broken. It still means what it means, it's just that we're desensitized to the word through repeated misuse.

It's much the same way with open source. When you repeatedly misuse the term, it loses meaning. A good example is everybody's favorite, Microsoft. They use the term as a negative. [com.com] Then turn around and use it as a positive [nwsource.com] , albeit in a somewhat misunderstood way.

dead? maybe just diluted (2, Insightful)

myurr (468709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183996)

Open source is not dead, maybe just a little diluted thanks to some corporates claiming to be "open source" whilst never getting (or deliberately ignoring) the community based principle.

Re:dead? maybe just diluted (2, Funny)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184334)

Open source is not dead, maybe just a little diluted
So, in other words, it's pining for the fjords?

Don't be confused! (4, Informative)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183998)

Open source != Free Software

GPL software is Free, as in libre.

Open source is not necessarily Free, as in libre.

Re:Don't be confused! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184760)

Libre? Don't the French drink beer?

Pine, Cedega (1)

physicsnick (1031656) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184972)

Exactly. There are plenty of examples of open source projects that are proprietary, and that may not be redistributed; e.g. Pine, Cedega. You can view the source, in some cases you can modify it and compile your own version, but you may NOT redistribute your changes (not even for free).

"Open source" has absolutely nothing to do with the development process or the rights you have with that source. It simply means the source is open for viewing and for educational use and that's it.

Re:Pine, Cedega (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186058)

Exactly. There are plenty of examples of open source projects that are proprietary, and that may not be redistributed; e.g. Pine, Cedega.

then they are not Open Source, since they don't meet the open source community's definition. They are other things (by our definition) calling themselves open source.

Does this mean that Open Source is only about viewing the code ?

No it does not. Plenty of free-as-in-beer software calls itself "free software" - does this mean that "free software" is only about free-as-in-beer ? No.

Not necessarily (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187240)

Certianly all software released under GPL, LGPL, BSD, and similar licenses meets the FSF's definition of Free Software. However, I would argue that there is also a component to that distinction which is softer-- whether a company goes out of their way to unnecessarily limit the freedom of the users of the software.

I do not consider MySQL to be free enough, for example, becuase they use the GPL licensing of client libs to try to force people to pay them money for more rights. I do not see SQL-Ledger as free enough because the main developer actually tends to oppose those trying to contribute.

In short, I don't think that the license is the only consideration when deciding whether software is truly Free. The intentions and actions of those at the center of the community need to be considered as well.

Re:Don't be confused! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18187608)

Please, it's all BS. People want to make money - simple.

OSS is meaningless therefore Microsoft should (2, Interesting)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184028)

Buy Linux

http://www.cooltechzone.com/Departments/Columns/Wh y_Microsoft_Should_Acquire_Linux_200702262810/ [cooltechzone.com]

This is not a joke but it seems to fit the general thrust of this article.
There are a number of questions the need answering
  1) Why would Microsoft really want to buy Linux?
  2) If OSS is meaningless what would Microsoft get from buying it
  3) Could they acquite RH, NOVELL, Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu etc etc?
  4) Could they acquire the rights to the software contained in a typical distro?
  5) Why would they want to buy something that is free?

My albeit simple take on this is Patents!
The FUD eminating from Redmond and these articles all aim to discredit Linux and FOSS in general.
If Microsoft is violating patents held by OSS companies then buying them would quietly make the issue go away.

Re:OSS is meaningless therefore Microsoft should (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18186112)

"Microsoft can just solve their competition problems by buying Linux!" sounds just as naive a point of reasoning as "The government could cure poverty by just printing more money!" Thanks for the link; I forgot people that stupid had jobs.

reunification (5, Funny)

forsetti (158019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184072)

How about "free" + "open" = "frepen"? (FREH-pen)

Have you tried that new frepen software?

That's the best frepen software I've ever used!

That frepen software frepped my freppy frep, and now I'm frepping frepped!

Re:reunification (1)

Marsala (4168) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184984)

Oh, great.

I already have enough of a challenge convincing upper management that I'm not some sort of martian for simply suggesting that we use free software to solve a problem, now you want me to sound like a Farscape nutjob, too.

Frak that.

Not much to say (4, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184150)

For those who don't wanna bother to RTFA, he starts off by complaining about a specific company claiming to use OSS when its software isn't downloadable, only to have to post this correction:

(update: Vyatta source is in git, though in my defense you can't find this out from their downloads page only the wiki. Their entire product is GPL, so they're as open source as they come. I apologize for misfiring)


This is in paragraph one of a 6 paragraph article. Not a good start.

There is one genuine arguing point, where someone named "Tim" tries to claim that certain software is cool because it embraces and extends Postgres to make it Oracle compatible. Its a silly claim though. If you ditch Oracle for someone else's proprietary Oracle look-alike, what exactly are you gaining? Certainly nothing an Open Source or Free Software advocate cares about.

Re:Not much to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18185154)

FYI Tim would be gnat's boss Tim O'Reilly. Who runs a little publisher [oreilly.com] that has some influence in the technology world.

Re:Not much to say (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185858)

where someone named "Tim"

I think that this someone may be Tim O'Reilly, as the article discusses the OSCON conference, which is organized by O'Reilly Media.

Re:Not much to say (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186692)

The usefulness is that the spirit and letter of the Postgres license are maintained to produce a (presumably) cheaper Oracle clone. If there was an Open Source database to compete with Oracle, Postgres is certainly it. As long as the Postgres people are happy, and the people who migrate away from Oracle don't get screwed, then the EnterpriseDB project is profitable while continuing to contribute to the community that started the project.

Open Source != GPL (3, Insightful)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184194)

Creating something in an open source community/environment does not necessarily mean it will be released under the GNU/GPL license. It sounds like the OP seems to think that all open source projects either should be, or are made with release under the GPL being the end result of the program. That is not how it works. Open source projects can and often do yield a marketable product for sale in one for or another. Now other groups start out with the intent of designing a program and releasing it under a GPL - these groups then adopt the open source model in order to gain support, insight, and contributions from interested parties.

Open Source = Development Model, not a release model/plan

GPL(free) and open source can be mutually exclusive.

Review your damn stories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184254)

Sun's Simon Phpps chimed in by stating

How the Internet killed the meaning of words (1)

beerdini (1051422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184382)

Sadly I see "open source" as a phrase going the way of the dinosaur as well. Add this to the other words and phrases that the internet has also made meaningless...

"free"-there is always a cost...spyware, some sort of database or mailing list, or the ones that I love that say free then ask for some sort of payment anyway
"no credit card required"- a couple of screens later there is a screen asking for your credit card number for the next one...
"age verification"- click here to verify your age, or use an older friend/family's credit card and their info
"you have won"-click here to get your new laptop, PS3, iPod, etc...then fill out a bunch of forms, sign up for a bunch of email lists or overpriced crap you don't want, valuing 3 times the amount of the item that you "won"
"hot" and "sexy"- I'm sorry, when you describe yourself like this you're either too full of yourself, or more often than not you need a reality check on what hot and/or sexy really mean.
"single female looking"- along the same lines of the last one, this usually ends up being an overweight middle aged guy living in his parent's basement with nothing better to do while he is waiting for a response on to his posting on the WOW message boards
"click [here] for more"- this one is like playing Russian roulette, you might get another page of information you want, you might be taken to an ad site, you might be taken to a subscription page, you just can't predict what will happen whenever you click on those words.

I know there are many more that I missed, feel free to add your own that you've come across

Re:How the Internet killed the meaning of words (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184664)

I'm afraid in posting all those terms you've told us all a little too much about your surfing habits. Please put your pants on, help is on the way.

Re:How the Internet killed the meaning of words (1)

beerdini (1051422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184806)

LOL...It also doesn't hurt that I'm the guy at the pub that all the drunk friends buy me drinks to clean up their computers so their wives won't get PO'ed at them for what they've been looking at. Too bad I don't document what I actually remove from who. I'd really have some good dirt that I don't think I'd ever have to buy a drink again.

Non-open Open Source (NOOS) (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184444)

I keep running into projects that claim to be open-source, but the only way to get the source is to "join" the team. In other words, register, provide reasons why they should admit you, wait for approval, then you can download the project source.

These aren't company sites

Now, I really hate the idea of the "Release Unfinished Code to the Wild" and call it "released" when all you have is a few methods and a lot of place-holders describing what could go there and the code still does nothing. But calling something open when you require registration, membership approval, etc. is not really open, its just less closed.

A fundamental misunderstanding in terminology. (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184446)

Something can be free software, something can be open source software, something can be both. That doesn't mean you get the source code though.

It simply means, that if you get the binary, you also have the option to get the source and to change it and redistribute it.

The original developer can make as much stuff as they want, and not have any of it freely available to download. That is legitimate. But, if it is free or open, then once the original developer sells you a binary, they also offer you the source.

Now, you have the source and can change it, and redistribute it if you want. But you can also not share that source with anyone else, and make changes and keep them "in house". That is also allowed.

Just because it is free (as in speech) or open, doesn't mean you can download it for free (as in beer).

Example of qualified Open Source (1)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184526)

I've experienced something of a culture shock recently, attempting to use and deploy the "DotNetNuke" web framework. Its an IIS+ASP.NET+MSSQL stack, which integrated well with an in-house application. The software has some good press and is open source under a BSD-style license.

There were a number of odd differences in the developer community, as compared to similar types of open source projects I have worked with. Here's some non-comprehensive highlights.

- There wasn't good, free web-based documentation. There was some limited web-based documentation that often repeated the same information readily available on the page you were trying to research. The serious documentation for the project is primarily distributed electronically in finished, non-editable PDF form (which amusingly ship with a license that forbids you from downloading them without written permission) or in video tutorials from other sites with heavy advertisements on their pages. The purpose of putting the documentation in these awkward formats, at least the video tutorials, appeared designed to drive ad revenue or paid subscriptions.

- Every level of add-on was heavily commercialized. Most of the skins available were commercial, even if they were very simple. Most of the modules were commercial, even if they were as basic as modules that allow the site to be backed up. I got the feeling that the hyper-commercialization of add-ons was actually retarding the growth of the core software, because people were protecting the revenue of their simplistic modules, instead of integrating that functionality back into the core.

- To be fair, the software does do what it says it does. The commercial ad-ons do what they say they do. If you shell out for them, you can create a reasonably capable web site quickly, for not too much money.

This kind of "open source" solution exemplifies some of ways that open source software projects can fail to live up to expectations implied by the buzzword. In this case, the core software was under an open source license, but the "complete" solution for most users was not, and there was a culture in place that made it difficult to make the open-source part of the software into a complete solution.

I did not see the difference so clearly before, because most of the BSD-licensed products in the Linux community have more of sharing culture, and perhaps do not feel as strongly the need to recoup the costs of their development tools :D

Open Source and BSD license (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186884)

most of the BSD-licensed products in the Linux community have more of sharing culture, and perhaps do not feel as strongly the need to recoup the costs of their development tools :D

I may be wrong but what I understand of the BSD license is that it is less open than the GPL and because of this it's easier to make money from BSD licensed software. A person could take open source code from a project and modify it then sale the new package without opening the code, all that's required is that those who contributed code to what you use you give them credit for.

At least that's my understanding of the BSD license, however I may be wrong. So if someone knows I am wrong I welcome their corrections. Actually I've thought of working a BSD licensed graphics, photoeditting, program. I'm a photographer and GIMP doesn't have many of the capabilities of Photoshop (PS) so unless you make a lot of money the price of PS isn't easily justifiable. Because of this I've thought of working with a BSD licensed app I could program more capabilities into then turn around and make money selling it to other photographers and not have to give the source away, at least not until I've made enough for it to be finacially worth the tyme I spent programming.

Falcon

What it means to me (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184550)

The meaning of the word... nothing else:

You have free (software), which means I can own (the program) and don't have to pay (for a fully working version). Whether that be a closed source or open source piece of software, doesn't matter. Before or after compilation, they give it to me for nothing (public domain, freeware)

You have free, open source, which means that I (personally) can only own the source code and don't have to pay for the fully finished version. Whether the binary blob and/or support during or after compilation becomes paid software or a service is none of my business, I own the source code now and can modify it to whatever I want to do with it, rip out the license number requirement for example. This is usually source code in public domain (like )

Licenses on the other hand is another beasty. A license is a contract (whether or not that can be implied by just reading/accepting it is something I rather leave to the lawyers) between you and another entity (be that a programmer or a company) which says what you get (a binary blob, an installer, the source code), what you can do with it (modify it, debug it) and what the constraints are in using/modifying the program (commercial, notify me). I don't know how far those contracts are legitimate in different countries (like EULA's in Europe or the GPL on the Cayman's)

GPL licensed software is indeed open source, since you can get the open source, but you are constrained by the license, so it is not truly free software. But then again, nothing is free in this world, everything comes with a certain cost (even breathing 'costs' you brain-time and energy), if you are willing to pay the price (be that the bandwidth, time, constraints ...) then you have obtained something that you think is of value. The seller (whether that be the programmer) also thinks he got his value out of it (whether it is on his resume, or just feeling good, or needing somebody (the community) to fix problems).

Whatever people do, they always do it to get something out of it, there is nothing that you will do if it wouldn't have a certain value to you. All people are thus egoistic and you can't contend THAT.

Free Software has nothing to do with communities (2, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184566)

Free Software has nothing to do with communities, except for a certain correlation between success, popularity and Free (as in speech) development philosophy. Don't get the concepts mixed.

They don't own the expression more than you or I, but as they are its original coiner, I will bring the GNU definition of Free Software, as seen in their The Free Software Definition [gnu.org] page:

Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.


Nothing there mentions that the software *must* (or either should) be "developed in open source communities" (being the operative word there "developed").

I'm not disputing the benefits of a community-laden development, but only pointing that the concepts of Free Software, Open Source and community-based development are three different sets that share an intersection that, although very good for the whole "cause", cannot summarize adequately the entire concept.

Re:Free Software has nothing to do with communitie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18185566)

You're absolutely right. Personally, I think that working with other programmers is just work and not fun. I'm only willing to do it for a paycheck at the end of the month, so I stay away from the community projects.

But that doesn't mean I won't release my stuff as open source. The benefits of the freedoms you mention are important to the end user and don't need to have an impact on the development process. Besides most 'community' projects are really the work of a very small group of dedicated people for the most part.

Re:Free Software has nothing to do with communitie (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 7 years ago | (#18186398)

In fact, it would appear that RMS didn't believe community-based development was possible, at least in some areas:

The kernel will require closer communication and will be worked on by a small, tight group


That was the Hurd cathedral (with the modular micro-kernel, which you would have thought would be more amenable to distributed development).

The Linux bazaar proved him wrong - kernels, even old-fashioned big monolithic ones, _can_ be developed by loose, widespread communities, and a lot faster.

Both Free Software and OSS are Bad Terms (1)

Eloquence (144160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184648)

Free Software was a bad choice to begin with, because of the obvious freeware ambiguity. This is why Open Source gained traction so quickly -- people found it difficult to communicate about "Free Software" without constantly being misunderstood (and then having to resort to the "free as in freedom" spiel which isn't exactly what you want to do when you want to convince your manager to switch to a different software solution). But Open Source completely neglects to mention the notion of "freedom" and, hence, has become diluted. "Open Source" is a nice wishy-washy term that can mean anything to anyone. The OSI's attempts to avoid this with a clear definition are laudable, but have failed outside the context of well-defined open source communities.

The adoption of the word Libre into the English language may represent a way out. Simply speaking about "Libre Software" makes it clear that this is not about freedom of price, but doesn't make it necessary to become any more explicit if one does not want to in a particular context. But I don't think such adoption is likely to happen on a large scale unless both OSI and the FSF throw their weight behind it.

Liberated Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18186510)

Freedom movements have dealt with the terminology for centuries. So we could have unambiguously: "liberated software", "Software Liberation Front", "League for Software Freedom".

You might protest and say that software that is free from the start doesn't require liberation, but because of copyright legislation, all software is in bondage until the active act of liberation by the owner.

Free Software, not "open source" (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184884)

Which is why "Free Software" is the important concept, and shouldn't have been abandoned. "open source" was only ever a marketing term, and many people (myself including) had warned from its invention that corporations with no interest in freedom would find ways to abuse and ultimately destroy it.

You can not be "somewhat free". You might not like the GPL, but it is ten times more resilient to abuse than most of the open-source-but-not-free-software licenses.

Re:Free Software, not "open source" (2, Insightful)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185132)

Yes, because the word "free" is a completely unambiguous word. "Free Software" isn't popular because it was ambiguous from the first day it was coined.

Re:Free Software, not "open source" (3, Insightful)

upside (574799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187094)

You've got to be kidding. "Free software" is even more useless than "open source".

It's only the geek crowd, and specifically in the software context, that thinks of free as freedom. For most people "free" connotes free as in beer (zero cost), even in the software context. A little test to put yourself in Joe Average's shoes: imagine yourself outside a bookstore. A sign above a shelf in the window says "free books". Now, do you think "cool, freebies", or do you REALLY think "cool, books that I can copy, modify and sell"?

The simple truth is that people just have to learn about the nuances. You can't create a cover-all term and expect everyone to agree on the meaning and trust everyone not to abuse it.

Aspects such as cost, availability of source and restrictions on use and redistribution are not necessarily tied together at all. I can devise a libre-but-not-zero-cost license that allows people to modify and resell the software, but forbids them from giving it away for free. Or an "zero-cost-redistributable-modifiable-only-for-pri vate-use" license stipulating that the source may be viewed and modified for private use, but the modified versions may not be resold. Ad infinitum.

Its is .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18184934)

Open to Open Source is as Closed is to Closed Source

Why this is GOOD for "open source" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18185230)

To continue to grow I believe "open source" needs companies and of course companies require profit to keep running. Why does "open source" need companies? Because without them none of the menial tasks get done. The pretty interfaces, the user friendly installers, the extensive documentation, friendly support avenues, etc...

The problem however is of course how do you make money on something you give away for free? Offering support is one way, but that it can be VERY difficult, because your primary market is usually "geeks". How many geeks do you know call a support help line? The very nature of being a geek is to try to find answers on your own, they go to Google for help, not a 1-800 number. This model rarely works well, and by well I mean it rarely supports a full blown company beyond some programmer and his buddy in his basement.

It would be nice if companies actually supported open source software by donating a fraction of the cost that they are saving by using that software, but that will never happen. A company could save $100,000 by switching from Oracle to PostgreSQL, yet they would never contribute a cent to PostgreSQL, simply because they are not required to.

So how do you make money beyond offering support? Simple, you offer value added services or products (ie: SugarCRM). You give away a free version as the hook and offer services/enhancements which cost money. This doesn't make the company or product any LESS open source. You still get a entire product for FREE, you still get the source code, you can still modify the source code, it usually just comes with a basic limitation:

DON'T TAKE ALL OUR HARD WORK AND TRY TO PUT US OUT OF BUSINESS.

Seems pretty reasonable to me, doesn't it?

If people and companies were ethical they wouldn't need to further restrict their licenses, but people are always looking to make a quick buck, so it forces these companies to take measures to prevent this. It would be nice to see a "standard" license that tries to be as open source as possible while still protecting companies initial investments.

Unless you actually plan on taking their hard work and trying to profit from it specifically, why do you care if the license restricts this or not? You can still create and distribute add-on modules, you can still make modifications to the code for your own use, what else do you need?

Quit arguing over definitions of words, or phrases that will always mean different things to different people. Support the companies that offer something that is useful to you and be done with it.

Term "open" has been meaningless for a long time (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185424)

For example, what's "open" about OpenVMS? In the 80's companies found that they could increase sales 14% by calling their software products "open" - or something like that, I guess.

Anyway, once a term has been exploited by management and marketing types, forget it, the term becomes meaningless.

Re:Term "open" has been meaningless for a long tim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18187254)

"For example, what's "open" about OpenVMS?"

The standards they followed.

"In the 80's companies found that they could increase sales 14% by calling their software products "open" - or something like that, I guess."

You are right. And, as always, if you knew the story, it would make perfect sense. Those were the days of the big IBM. IBM did things on his way (much like Microsoft nowadays and for the exact same reasons). They were closed since you were forced to be a IBM-only company or no IBM at all. But the other companies were "open": you could have Bull and HP and Sun at the same time integrating on a whole structure, hence open: open to colaborate.

OSI? Libre! (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185438)

Remember kids, claiming that something which doesn't confirm to the OSI definition [opensource.org] is "Open Source" is making the same mistake as claiming that Free Software is freeware.


Now if we just renamed both to "Freedom Software"... English does have a translation of Libre.


So to answer the question: Mu.

a wide continuum (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185760)

Open source runs the gamut from the public domain with no restrictions to "look but don't use" licenses that let you copy the source code, inspect it, but not compile it or use it in any format other than plain-text.

BSD, GPL, and other public licenses usually fall somewhere in between.

BTW, the latter have some utility, but are not necessarily any better than closed-source. By inspecting the code, you can spot security holes, but so can the Black Hats. They will exploit the holes, and you aren't free to fix them.

Source available, but licensing for commercial use (2, Insightful)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187188)

I have been writing open source stuff for over a decade, and I will continue with occasional GPL projects. That said, without corporate sponsorship it is rough financially to spend too much time on open source projects. I am in the process of switching to a plan where for my three current non-consulting development projects (text mining, visualization, and document web portal) I always have a source code drop available with a free for non-commercial use license. Commercial licenses are available for a small (tiny compared to the development costs) fee. This seems like a reasonable approach to me, and potential commercial customers have access to full source code before they commit to spending money. Wil I sometimes get ripped off? Sure, but I prefer to take my chances and trust people.

I don't think that any company should use any important infrastructure software that they do not have source for. Open source like Linux, OpenOffice.org, Apache, etc. are best, but for some more niche infrastructure components that are not commercially sponsored, an approach like the one I am starting to use make sense: consumers are protected by having source code, and developers of niche projects have some chance of making money to support future development.
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