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Open source is a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content. It most commonly refers to the open-source model, in which open-source software or other products are released under an open-source license as part of the open-source-software movement. Use of the term originated with software, but has expanded beyond the software sector to cover other open content and forms of open collaboration.


The simple English phrase "open source" has sporadically occurred in books dating back hundreds of years. For example, in 1685, Thomas Willis wrote in The London Practice of Physick, Or The Whole Practical Part of Physick that fluid from a wound "flow'd forth in a plentifull Stream as from an open Source, till it was drawn from the whole Legg..."[1] However, the modern meaning of the term "open source" was first proposed by a group of people in the free software movement who were critical of the political agenda and moral philosophy implied in the term "free software" and sought to reframe the discourse to reflect a more commercially minded position.[2] In addition, the ambiguity of the term "free software" was seen as discouraging business adoption.[3][4] The group included Christine Peterson, Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, Michael Tiemann and Eric S. Raymond. Peterson suggested "open source" at a meeting[5] held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's announcement in January 1998 of a source code release for Navigator. Linus Torvalds gave his support the following day, and Phil Hughes backed the term in Linux Journal. Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement, initially seemed to adopt the term, but later changed his mind.[5][6] Netscape released its source code under the Netscape Public License and later under the Mozilla Public License.[7]

Raymond was especially active in the effort to popularize the new term. He made the first public call to the free software community to adopt it in February 1998.[8] Shortly after, he founded The Open Source Initiative in collaboration with Bruce Perens.[5]

The term gained further visibility through an event organized in April 1998 by technology publisher Tim O'Reilly. Originally titled the "Freeware Summit" and later known as the "Open Source Summit",[9] the event was attended by the leaders of many of the most important free and open-source projects, including Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Eric Allman, Guido van Rossum, Michael Tiemann, Paul Vixie, Jamie Zawinski, and Eric Raymond. At that meeting, alternatives to the term "free software" were discussed. Tiemann argued for "sourceware" as a new term, while Raymond argued for "open source". The assembled developers took a vote, and the winner was announced at a press conference the same evening.[9]

Many large formal institutions have sprung up to support the development of the open-source software movement, including the Apache Software Foundation, which supports community projects such as the open-source framework Apache Hadoop and the open-source HTTP server Apache HTTP.

The open-source model and open collaboration[edit]

The open-source model is a decentralized software development model that encourages open collaboration,[10][11] meaning "any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and noncontributors alike."[10] A main principle of open-source software development is peer production, with products such as source code, blueprints, and documentation freely available to the public. The open-source movement in software began as a response to the limitations of proprietary code. The model is used for projects such as in open-source appropriate technology,[12] and open-source drug discovery.[13][14]

The open source model for software development inspired the use of the term to refer to other forms of open collaboration, such as in Internet forums,[15] mailing lists[16] and online communities.[17] Open collaboration is also thought to be the operating principle underlining a gamut of diverse ventures, including bitcoin, TEDx, and Wikipedia.[18]

Open collaboration is the principle underlying peer production, mass collaboration, and wikinomics.[10] It was observed initially in open source software, but can also be found in many other instances, such as in Internet forums,[15] mailing lists,[16] Internet communities,[17] and many instances of open content, such as creative commons. It also explains some instances of crowdsourcing, collaborative consumption, and open innovation.[19]

Riehle et al. define open collaboration as collaboration based on three principles of egalitarianism, meritocracy, and self-organization.[20] Levine and Prietula define open collaboration as "any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and noncontributors alike." [10] This definition captures multiple instances, all joined by similar principles. For example, all of the elements — goods of economic value, open access to contribute and consume, interaction and exchange, purposeful yet loosely coordinated work — are present in an open source software project, in Wikipedia, or in a user forum or community. They can also be present in a commercial website that is based on user-generated content. In all of these instances of open collaboration, anyone can contribute and anyone can freely partake in the fruits of sharing, which are produced by interacting participants who are loosely coordinated.

An annual conference dedicated to the research and practice of open collaboration is the International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (OpenSym, formerly WikiSym).[21] As per its website, the group defines open collaboration as "collaboration that is egalitarian (everyone can join, no principled or artificial barriers to participation exist), meritocratic (decisions and status are merit-based rather than imposed) and self-organizing (processes adapt to people rather than people adapt to pre-defined processes)."[22]

Open-source license[edit]

Open source promotes universal access via an open-source or free license to a product's design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint.[23][24] Before the phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of other terms. Open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet.[25] The open-source software movement arose to clarify copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues.

An open-source license is a type of license for computer software and other products that allows the source code, blueprint or design to be used, modified and/or shared under defined terms and conditions.[26][27] This allows end users and commercial companies to review and modify the source code, blueprint or design for their own customization, curiosity or troubleshooting needs. Open-source licensed software is mostly available free of charge, though this does not necessarily have to be the case. Licenses which only permit non-commercial redistribution or modification of the source code for personal use only are generally not considered as open-source licenses. However, open-source licenses may have some restrictions, particularly regarding the expression of respect to the origin of software, such as a requirement to preserve the name of the authors and a copyright statement within the code, or a requirement to redistribute the licensed software only under the same license (as in a copyleft license). One popular set of open-source software licenses are those approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) based on their Open Source Definition (OSD).

Open-source software code[edit]

Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use or modification from its original design. Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community. Code is released under the terms of a software license. Depending on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their version (fork) back to the community.


The early instance of "open source software code" and its common usage parlance has truncated from "open source code" to "open source" and further down to "open" as a concept. Additional words after "open" help specify its usage (i.e. open door vs open source), and "open source" is outgrowing older less accurate narrow definitions.[citation needed]

Initially it referred to code but "open source" may now be interpreted as "open to the public", "open concept", or "open origins" with the same intent permitting duplicate or evolved versions, open or proprietary, with or without restrictions. Regardless whether "open" or "open source" is applied to virtual intellectual properties and theoretical licences or to physical processes and products the "open source" concept expands across new developments as the term adapts and evolves as with all language.[citation needed]

"Open" versus "free" versus "free and open"[edit]

Free and open-source software (FOSS) or Free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS) is openly shared source code that is licensed without any restrictions on usage, modification, or distribution.[citation needed] Confusion persists about this completely unrestricted definition because the "Free", also known as "Libre", refers to the freedom or the product not the price, expense, cost, or charge For example, "being free to speak" is not the same as "free beer".[citation needed]

Conversely, the term "open source" is often wrongly interpreted as merely "having the source code published", without any other rights granted.[28]

"Free and open" should not to be confused with public ownership (state ownership), deprivatization (nationalization), anti-privatization (anti-corporate activism), or transparent behavior.[citation needed]


Agriculture, economy, manufacturing and production[edit]

Science and medicine[edit]

Open science[edit]

Open science is said[by whom?] to be the antithesis of the blind faith in Scientism, and has the potential to be a practical defense against proprietary (closed) pseudoscience.[citation needed]

It has been argued[by whom?] that peer-reviewed science, even computer science, had already been open until Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp. forced programmers to explicitly license products as Free or Open Source.[citation needed] As noted by Rob Landley, "The copyright issue changed in 1983, when the Apple v Franklin ruling extended copyright protections to binary code... Before that decision, source code was copyrightable but binaries weren't, so companies shipped source code to increase their ownership of the code in the eyes of the law. If you just shipped precompiled binaries, you had no rights the law would recognize".[29]

Open science uses the scientific method as a process of open discovery of shared verifiable knowledge.[citation needed] This contrasts with proprietary science, where the processes and research are not publicly shared, which means that others cannot be certain that rigorous studies have been and are conducted, proper precautions taken, and adequate warnings given;[citation needed] and "closed science", where papers are obscured behind paywalls or published in private journals.[citation needed] Open science uses the scientific method as a process of open discovery of shared verifiable knowledge.[citation needed]






  1. ^ Thomas Willis, The London Practice of Physick, Or The Whole Practical Part of Physick (1685), p. 173.
  2. ^ O'Mahony, Siobhan Clare (2002). "The emergence of a new commercial actor: Community managed software projects". Stanford, CA: Stanford University: 34–42.
  3. ^ Eric S. Raymond. "Goodbye, "free software"; hello, "open source"". The problem with it is twofold. First, ... the term "free" is very ambiguous ... Second, the term makes a lot of corporate types nervous.
  4. ^ Shea, Tom (1983-06-23). "Free software - Free software is a junkyard of software spare parts". InfoWorld. Retrieved 2016-02-10. "In contrast to commercial software is a large and growing body of free software that exists in the public domain. Public-domain software is written by microcomputer hobbyists (also known as "hackers") many of whom are professional programmers in their work life. [...] Since everybody has access to source code, many routines have not only been used but dramatically improved by other programmers."
  5. ^ a b c Tiemann, Michael (19 September 2006). "History of the OSI". Open Source Initiative. Archived from the original on 1 October 2002. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software". 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  7. ^ Muffatto, Moreno (2006). Open Source: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Imperial College Press. ISBN 978-1-86094-665-3.
  8. ^ "Goodbye, "free software"; hello, "open source"". Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  9. ^ a b van Rossum, Guido (1998-04-10). "Open Source Summit". Linux Gazette. Archived from the original on 29 December 2013. Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  10. ^ a b c d Levine, Sheen S., & Prietula, M. J. (2013). Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance. Organization Science, doi:10.1287/orsc.2013.0872
  11. ^ Raymond, Eric S. (2001). The cathedral and the bazaar: musings on Linux and Open Source by an accidental revolutionary. OReilly. ISBN 978-0-596-00108-7.[page needed]
  12. ^ Pearce, Joshua M (2012). "The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology". Environment, Development and Sustainability. 14 (3): 425–431. doi:10.1007/s10668-012-9337-9.
  13. ^ "Science 2.0 is here as CSIR resorts to open-source drug research for TB" Business Standard, 1 March 2009
  14. ^ "Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria Consortium
  15. ^ a b Lakhani, Karim R., & von Hippel, Eric (2003). How Open Source Software Works: Free User to User Assistance. Research Policy, 32, 923–943 doi:10.2139/ssrn.290305
  16. ^ a b Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Majchrzak, Ann (2008). Knowledge Collaboration Among Professionals Protecting National Security: Role of Transactive Memories in Ego-Centered Knowledge Networks. Organization Science, 19(2), 260-276 doi:10.1287/orsc.1070.0315
  17. ^ a b Faraj, S., Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Majchrzak, Ann (2011). Knowledge Collaboration in Online Communities. Organization Science, 22(5), 1224-1239, doi:10.1287/orsc.1100.0614
  18. ^ "Open collaboration leading to novel organizations - KurzweilAI".
  19. ^ Levine, Sheen S.; Michael J. Prietula (2013-12-30). "Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance". Organization Science: 131230050407004. arXiv:1406.7541. doi:10.1287/orsc.2013.0872. ISSN 1047-7039. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
  20. ^ Riehle, D.; Ellenberger, J.; Menahem, T.; Mikhailovski, B.; Natchetoi, Y.; Naveh, B.; Odenwald, T. (March 2009). "Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges" (PDF). IEEE Software. 26 (2): 52–58. doi:10.1109/MS.2009.44. ISSN 0740-7459.
  21. ^ "About". The International Symposium on Open Collaboration.
  22. ^ Dirk Riehle. "Definition of Open Collaboration". The Joint International Symposium on Open Collaboration. Retrieved 2013-03-26. Open collaboration is collaboration that is egalitarian (everyone can join, no principled or artificial barriers to participation exist), meritocratic (decisions and status are merit-based rather than imposed) and self-organizing (processes adapt to people rather than people adapt to pre-defined processes).
  23. ^ Lakhani, K.R.; von Hippel, E. (June 2003). "How Open Source Software Works: Free User to User Assistance". Research Policy. 32 (6): 923–943. doi:10.1016/S0048-7333(02)00095-1. hdl:1721.1/70028.
  24. ^ Gerber, A.; Molefo, O.; Van der Merwe, A. (2010). "Documenting open-source migration processes for re-use". In Kotze, P.; Gerber, A.; van der Merwe, A.; et al. Proceedings of the SAICSIT 2010 Conference — Fountains of Computing Research. ACM Press. pp. 75–85. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/1899503.1899512. ISBN 978-1-60558-950-3.
  25. ^ Weber 2004[page needed]
  26. ^ "Brief Definition of Open Source Licenses". Open Source Initiative. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  27. ^ Popp, Dr. Karl Michael (2015). Best Practices for commercial use of open source software. Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand. ISBN 978-3738619096.
  28. ^ Richard Stallman. "Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software". Retrieved 2019-02-17. However, the obvious meaning for the expression “open source software”—and the one most people seem to think it means—is “You can look at the source code.” That criterion [...] includes many programs that are neither free nor open source.
  29. ^ Landley, Rob (2009-05-23). "23-05-2009". Retrieved 2019-01-24. So if open source used to be the norm back in the 1960's and 70's, how did this _change_?

See also[edit]


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