Open source software

Open source software

Open source software (OSS) began as a marketing campaign for free software [cite web
title=Frequently Asked Questions |publisher=Open Source Initiative
] . OSS can be defined as computer software for which the human-readable source code is made available under a copyright 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 very 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 [cite web
first=William T.
title=Open source software
work=World Book Online Reference Center
] . A report by Standish Group says that adoption of open source has caused a drop in revenue to the proprietary software industry by about $60 billion per year [cite web
title=Creating wealth with free software
work=Free Software Magazine
] [cite press release
title=Standish Newsroom - Open Source
] .

Open Source Definition

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.


:Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code.

:The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution:The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

2. Source Code:The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derived Works: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.

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code:The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups:The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor:The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License:The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product:The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software:The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral:No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.
Open Source Initiative|


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 [cite web
title=Goodbye, "free software"; hello, "open source"
first=Eric S.
authorlink=Eric S. Raymond
] . Software developers may want to publish their software with an open source license, so that anybody may also develop the same software or understand how it works. Open source software generally allows anyone 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" with emphasis on the positive "freedom to" distribute rather than a negative "freedom from" cost. 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 Bazaarcite web
first=Eric S.
authorlink=Eric S. Raymond
title=The Cathedral and the Bazaar
] , 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, "carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation". 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 [cite book
chapter=A Software Engineering Approach to Libre Software
title=Open Source Jahrbuch 2004
editor=Robert A. Gehring, Bernd Lutterbeck
publisher=Technical University of Berlin
] 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.; 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, Firefox, Apache, the GNU Compiler Collection, and Perl to mention a few.


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.

An important legal milestone for the open source movement was passed in 2008, when the US federal appeals court ruled that free software licences definitely do set legally binding conditions on the use of copyrighted work, and they are therefore enforceable under existing copyright law. As a result, if end-users do violate the licensing conditions, their licence disappears, meaning they are infringing copyright [cite news
title=Legal milestone for open source
publisher=BBC News
] .


Given the basic fact that OSS can be given away free, a number of alternative models for funding its development other than from the basic profit from selling a software license, have emerged. Independent developers or companies may benefit from consultancy fees or charging for services related to the end use of the software, such as training. Several free OSS packages may have 'professional' versions which have enhanced capabilities and are sold commercially. Several governments and public authorities have chosen to fund open source development companies for their software needs, rather than pay for commercial licenses. Many commercial open source applications are developed and distributed by companies as a combination of both open and closed source components. In this case, the company benefits from the availability of OSS, and thus in turn may end up funding OSS maintenance and upgrades when it benefits their application as a whole. There is some funding in the UK []

Open source versus closed source

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

One source of conflict is related to economics: Making money through traditional methods, such as sale of the use of individual copies and patent royalty payment (generally called "licensing"), is more difficult and in many ways against the very concept of open source software.

Some closed-source advocates see open source software as damaging to the market of commercial software. This is one of the many reasons, as mentioned above, that the term "free software" was replaced with "open source" — because many company executives could not believe in a product that did not participate economically in a free-market or mixed-market economy. In addition, if something goes wrong there is the difficult question of who is liable.

The counter to this argument is the use of open source software to fuel the market for a separate product or service. For example:
* Providing support and installation services; similar to IT Security groups, Linux Distributions, and Systems companies.
* Using the software as a stepping stone to sell a higher-end product or service; e.g., vs. StarOffice.
* Cost avoidance / cost sharing: many developers need a product, so it makes sense to share development costs (X Window System and the Apache web server)

Another major argument is software defects and security:This is an argument that applies to all open products not just open source software.

Since Open Source software is open, all of the defects and security flaws are easily found. Closed-source advocates argue that this makes it easier for a malicious person to discover security flaws. Further, that there is no incentive for an open-source product to be patched. Open-source advocates argue that this makes it easier also for a patch to be found and that the closed-source argument is security through obscurity, which this form of security will eventually fail, often without anyone knowing of the failure. Further, that just because there is not an immediate financial incentive to patch a product, does not mean there is not any incentive to patch a product. Further, if the patch is that significant to the user, having the source code, the user can technically patch the problem themselves. These arguments are hard to prove. However, most studies show that open-source software does have a higher flaw discovery, quicker flaw discovery, and quicker turn around on patches.

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 [cite web
title=Certification Mark
authorlink=Russ Nelson
publisher=Open Source Initiative
] . 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. [cite web
title=OSI Launch Announcement
first=Eric S.
authorlink=Eric S. Raymond
publisher=Open Source Initiative
] .

There have been instances where software vendors have labeled proprietary software as “open source” because it interfaces with popular OSS (such as Linux).Fact|date=July 2007 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 [cite web
title=Open Source Licenses by Category
authorlink=Russ Nelson
publisher=Open Source Initiative
] .

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 definitioncite web
title=Why "Open Source" misses the point of Free Software
authorlink =Richard Stallman
work=Philosophy of the GNU Project
publisher=GNU Project
] . 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.Fact|date=July 2007 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.Fact|date=July 2007 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.Fact|date=July 2007 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 requirementcite web
title=Why "Free Software" is better than "Open Source"
authorlink=Richard Stallman
work=Philosophy of the GNU Project
publisher=GNU Project
] , insists on the use of the term "free", and separates itself from the open source movement. The Open Source Initiative believes that "free" has three meanings: free as in beer, free as in freedom, and free as in unsellable.Fact|date=July 2007 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.

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 [cite web
title=Will The Real Open Source CRM Please Stand Up?
authorlink=Michael Tiemann
publisher=Open Source Initiative
] 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" [cite web
title=Are SugarCRM, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and others abusing the term "open source?"
] since it specified a "badge" that must be displayed in the user interface (SugarCRM has since switched to GPLv3 [cite news
authorlink=Ashlee Vance
title=SugarCRM trades badgeware for GPL 3
publiser=The Register
] ). Another example is Scilab, which calls itself "the open source platform for numerical computation" [cite web
title=The open source platform for numerical computation
] but has a license [cite web
title=SCILAB License
] 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 pine email client, and the Microsoft Windows Operating System.Fact|date=May 2008

Pros and cons of open source software

Software experts and researchers on open source software have identified several advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage for business is that open source is a good way for business to achieve greater penetration of the market. Companies that offer open source software are able to establish an industry standard and, thus, gain competitive advantage. It has also helped build developer loyalty as developers feel empowered and have a sense of ownership of the end productcite journal
coauthors=Vijayan Sugumaran and Balaji Rajagopalan
title=A framework for creating hybrid-open source software communities
journal=Info Systems Journal
] . Moreover less costs of marketing and logistical services are needed for OSS. It also helps companies to keep abreast of all technology developments. It is a good tool to promote a companies’ image, including its commercial products [cite journal
title=Profiting from Open Source
coauthors=Rajiv Gupta
journal=Harvard Business Review
] . The OSS development approach has helped produce reliable, high quality software quickly and inexpensively. Besides, it offers the potential for a more flexible technology and quicker innovation. It is said to be more reliable since it typically has thousands of independent programmers testing and fixing bugs of the software. It is flexible because modular systems allow programmers to build custom interfaces, or add new abilities to it and it is innovative since open source programs are the product of collaboration among a large number of different programmers. The mix of divergent perspectives, corporate objectives, and personal goals speeds up innovation [cite journal
title=What (and Why) you should know about open-source software
journal=Harvard Management Update
] . Moreover free software can be developed in accord with purely technical requirements. It does not require to think about commercial pressure that often degrades the quality of the software. Commercial pressures make traditional software developers pay more attention to customers' requirements than to security requirements, since such features are somewhat invisible to the customer [cite journal
title=On the Security of Open Source Software
journal=Info Systems Journal
] .

It is sometimes said that the open source development process may not be well defined and the stages in the development process, such as system testing and documentation may be ignored. However this is only true for small (mostly single programmer) projects. Larger, successful projects do define and enforce at least some rules as they need them to make the teamwork possible [] [cite web
title=Brief summary of coding style and practice used in JGAP
coauthors=Neil Rotstan
publisher=Java Genetic Algorithms Package
] . In the most complex projects these rules may be as strict as reviewing even minor change by two independent developers [cite web
title=Classpath hackers frustrated with slow OpenJDK process
] .

Not all OSS initiatives have been successful, for example, SourceXchange and Eazel. Software experts and researchers who are not convinced by open source’s ability to produce quality systems identify the unclear process, the late defect discovery and the lack of any empirical evidence as the most important problems (collected data concerning productivity and quality)cite journal
coauthors=Lefteris Angelis, Apostolos Oikonomou and Georgios L. Bleris
title=Code Quality Analysis in Open Source Software Development
journal=Info Systems Journal
] . It is also difficult to design a commercially sound business model around the open source paradigm. Consequently, only technical requirements may be satisfied and not the ones of the market. In terms of security, open source may allow hackers to know about the weaknesses or loopholes of the software more easily than closed-source software. It is depended of control mechanisms in order to create effective performance of autonomous agents who participate in virtual organizations [cite journal
first=Michael J.
title=Striking a Balance Between Trust and Control in a Virtual Organization: A Content Analysis of Open Source Software Case Studies
journal=Info Systems Journal
] .

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 such as 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 such as 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

Some of the more prominent organizations involved in OSS development include the Apache Software Foundation, creators of the Apache web server; a loose affialiation of developers headed by Linus Torvalds, creators of the Linux operating system kernel; the Eclipse Foundation, home of the Eclipse software development platform; the Debian Project, creators of the influential Debian Linux distribution; and the Mozilla Foundation, home of the Firefox web browser.

Several Open Source programs have become defining entries in their space, including the GIMP image editing system; Sun's Java programming language and environment; the MySQL database system; the FreeBSD Unix operating system; Sun's 2 office productivity suite; the POV-Ray 3D image creation tool; and the Wireshark network packet sniffer and protocol analyser

Open Source development is often performed "live and in public", using services provided for free on the Internet, such as the CodePlex and SourceForge web sites, and using tools that are themselves Open Source, including the CVS and Subversion source control systems, and the GNU Compiler Collection.

See also

* Free software
* List of open source software packages
* Open source advocacy
* Open Source Initiative
* Open source software security
* Open source video games


Further reading

*cite book |last=Lui |first=K.M. |coauthors=Chan, K.C.C. |year=2008 |title=Software Development Rhythms: Harmonizing Agile Practices for Synergy |publisher=John Wiley and Sons |isbn=978-0-470-07386-5

Legal and economic aspects

* [ Benkler, Yochai (2002), “Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm." Yale Law Journal 112.3 (Dec 2002): p367(78)] (in Adobe pdf format)
*cite book |last=v. Engelhardt |first=Sebastian |year=2008| |url= |title="The Economic Properties of Software", Jena Economic Research Papers, Volume 2 (2008), Number 2008-045 |format=PDF
*Lerner, J. & Tirole, J. (2002): ‘Some simple economics on open source’, Journal Of Industrial Economics 50(2), p 197–234
*cite book |first=Mikko |last=Välimäki |title=The Rise of Open Source Licensing: A Challenge to the Use of Intellectual Property in the Software Industry |publisher=Turre Publishing |year=2005 |url= |format=PDF
*cite paper |last=Polley |first=Barry |date=2007-12-11 |url= |title=Open Source Discussion Paper – version 1.0 |publisher=New Zealand Ministry of Justice |accessdate=2007-12-12 |format=PDF
*Rossi, M. A. (2006): Decoding the free/open source software puzzle: A survey of theoretical and empirical contributions, in J. Bitzer P. Schröder, eds, ‘The Economics of Open Source Software Development’, p 15–55. [, (download an online version)]

External links

* Computerworld article: [ Does the open-source development model work for business users?]
* The Open Source Initiative's [ definition of open source]
* [ Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution] — an online book containing essays from prominent members of the open source community
* [ Free / Open Source Research Community] — Many online research papers about Open Source
* KDE developer Aaron Siego's presentation [ "How OSS Improves Society"] at the 2nd Trans-Pacific Open Source Software Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, January 2006.
* David Wheeler's [ Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS, FLOSS, or FOSS)? Look at the Numbers!] quantitative studies of Open Source
* " [ Whence The Source: Untangling the Open Source/Free Software Debate] ", essay on the differences between Free Software and Open Source, by Thomas Scoville
* [ Degrees of Openness] article explaining the different aspects of openness in computer systems, written by Adrien Lamothe, on the O'Reilly Network.
* [ Berry, D M (2004). The Contestation of Code: A Preliminary Investigation into the Discourse of the Free Software and Open Software Movement, Critical Discourse Studies, Volume 1(1).]
* [ EU study on adopting FLOSS]
* [ Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software] by Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter
* [ Open Source Utils] Open Source Utils
* [ Open Source Software] at Intel

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