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End of 1990s: Foundation of the Open Source Initiative


In the early days of computing, programmers and developers shared software in order to learn from each other and evolve the field of computing. Eventually, the open-source notion moved to the way side of commercialization of software in the years 1970-1980. However, academics still often developed software collaboratively, for example Donald Knuth in 1979 with the TeX typesetting system[8] or Richard Stallman in 1983 with the GNU operating system. In 1997, Eric Raymond published The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a reflective analysis of the hacker community and free-software principles. The paper received significant attention in early 1998, and was one factor in motivating Netscape Communications Corporation to release their popular Netscape Communicator Internet suite as free software. This source code subsequently became the basis behind SeaMonkey, Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and KompoZer.

Netscape's act prompted Raymond and others to look into how to bring the Free Software Foundation's free software ideas and perceived benefits to the commercial software industry. They concluded that FSF's social activism was not appealing to companies like Netscape, and looked for a way to rebrand the free software movement to emphasize the business potential of sharing and collaborating on software source code.[9] The new term they chose was "open source", which was soon adopted by Bruce Perens, publisher Tim O'Reilly, Linus Torvalds, and others. The Open Source Initiative was founded in February 1998 to encourage use of the new term and evangelize open-source principles.[10]

While the Open Source Initiative sought to encourage the use of the new term and evangelize the principles it adhered to, commercial software vendors found themselves increasingly threatened by the concept of freely distributed software and universal access to an application's source code. A Microsoft executive publicly stated in 2001 that "open source is an intellectual property destroyer. I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business."[11] However, while Free and open-source software has historically played a role outside of the mainstream of private software development, companies as large as Microsoft have begun to develop official open-source presences on the Internet. IBM, Oracle, Google and State Farm are just a few of the companies with a serious public stake in today's competitive open-source market. There has been a significant shift in the corporate philosophy concerning the development of FOSS.[12]

The free-software movement was launched in 1983. In 1998, a group of individuals advocated that the term free software should be replaced by open-source software (OSS) as an expression which is less ambiguous[13][14][15] and more comfortable for the corporate world.[16] Software developers may want to publish their software with an open-source license, so that anybody may also develop the same software or understand its internal functioning. With open-source software, generally anyone is allowed to create modifications of it, port it to new operating systems and instruction set architectures, share it with others or, in some cases, market it. Scholars Casson and Ryan have pointed out several policy-based reasons for adoption of open source – in particular, the heightened value proposition from open source (when compared to most proprietary formats) in the following categories:


The Open Source Definition, notably, presents an open-source philosophy, and further defines the terms of use, modification and redistribution of open-source software. Software licenses grant rights to users which would otherwise be reserved by copyright law to the copyright holder. Several open-source software licenses have qualified within the boundaries of the Open Source Definition. The most prominent and popular example is the GNU General Public License (GPL), which "allows free distribution under the condition that further developments and applications are put under the same licence", thus also free.[18]

The open source label came out of a strategy session held on April 7, 1998 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 Tim O'Reilly, Linus Torvalds, Tom Paquin, Jamie Zawinski, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Sameer Parekh, Eric Allman, Greg Olson, Paul Vixie, John Ousterhout, Guido van Rossum, Philip Zimmermann, John Gilmore and Eric S. Raymond.[19] 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.

Many people 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.[20]

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), started in 1985, intended the word "free" to mean freedom to distribute (or "free as in free speech") and not freedom from cost (or "free as in free beer"). Since a great deal of free software already was (and still is) free of charge, such free software became associated with zero cost, which seemed anti-commercial.[9]
The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was formed in February 1998 by Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens. With at least 20 years of evidence from case histories of closed software development versus open development already provided by the Internet developer community, the OSI presented the "open source" case to commercial businesses, like Netscape. The OSI hoped that the use of the label "open source", a term suggested by Christine 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, due to the presentation of Raymond's paper to the upper management at Netscape—Raymond only discovered when he read the press release,[21] 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.[22]