usually refers to a program in which the
source code is available to
the general public for use and/or modification from its original
design free of charge. Open source code is typically created as a
collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and
share the changes within the community.
The rationale for this movement is that a larger group of
programmers not concerned with proprietary ownership or financial
gain will produce a more usefuland bug-free product for everyone
to use. The concept relies on peer review to find and eliminate
in the program code, a process that commercially developed and
packaged programs do not employ.
The basics behind the Open Source Initiative is that when
programmers can read, redistribute and modify the source code for a
piece of software, the software evolves.
Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to
proprietary software owned by corporations.
The Open Source Initiative (OSI)
Open Source is a certification standard issued by the
Open Source Initiative (OSI)
that indicates that the source code of a computer program is made available
free of charge to the general public. OSI dictates that in order to be
considered "OSI Certified" a product must meet the following criteria:
- The author or holder of the license of
the source code cannot collect royalties on the distribution of the
- The distributed program must make the
source code accessible to the user.
- The author must allow modifications and
derivations of the work under the program's original name.
- No person, group or field of endeavor
can be denied access to the program.
- The rights attached to the program must
not depend on the program's being part of a particular software
- The licensed software cannot place
restrictions on other software that is distributed with it.
Key Terms To
Understanding Open Source
Generically, open source refers to a program in which the source
code is available to the general public for use and/or modification
from its original design free of charge, i.e., open.
Short for General Public License, the license that accompanies some
open source software
Self-referentially, short for GNU's not UNIX, a UNIX-compatible
software system developed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
Pronounced lee-nucks or lih-nucks. A freely-distributable open
source operating system that runs on a number of hardware platforms.
Acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. (Pronounced
guh-nome.) GNOME is part of the GNU project and part of the free
software, or open source, movement.
Free Software Licensing
General Public License
Short for General Public License,
GPL is the license that accompanies
some open source software that details how the software and its accompany
source code can be freely copied, distributed and modified. The most
widespread use of GPL is in reference to the GNU GPL, which is commonly
abbreviated simply as GPL when it is understood that the term refers to the
GNU GPL. One of the basic tenets of the GPL is that anyone who acquires the
material must make it available to anyone else under the same licensing
The GPL does not cover activities other than the copying, distributing and
modifying of the source code.
All open source software is not distributed
under the same licensing agreement. Some may use a free software license, a
copyleft, or GPL compatible. The GNU GPL license is a free software
license and a copyleft license, while a "GNU Lesser General Public License"
is a free software license, but not a strong copyleft license. There are many
different types of licenses for free software some GNU GPL compatible,
Programmers & Corporations - Why Invest in
What is Free?
A software programmer really has his or her own reasons for contributing to open
source projects. Some may just be looking for fun or a challenge, while
others are looking to improve skill and build on their programming
abilities, or they may want to belong to a group project. In many instances
there is the opportunity to make money as open source projects can be funded
by government or corporate sponsors. Unlike commercial projects, open
source projects allow the programmer's name to be known, which benefits a
programmer's name and portfolio which can lead to future jobs with other
funded open source or commercial projects.
The hype and benefits of open source has not gone unnoticed in the
commercial world where some corporations have jumped on the open source
bandwagon. Since commercial software is sold for profit, one may wonder why
a company would be interested in open source projects. In many cases
companies are able to profit through selling add-on tools or modules, or
paid consulting services and technical support for the program.
Some Successful Open Source Projects
Sendmail is an open source mail transfer agent (MTA) used for routing
and delivery e-mail. The original version of Sendmail was written by Eric
Allman in the early 1980s. It is estimated that Sendmail is installed on 60
to 80 percent of the Internet's mail-server computers.
Apache Web server
Often referred to as simply
Apache, a public-domain open source Web server
developed by a loosely knit group of programmers. The first version of
Apache, based on the NCSA httpd Web server, was developed in 1995. Core
development of the Apache Web server is performed by a group of about 20
volunteer programmers, called the Apache Group. However, because the source
code is freely available, anyone can adapt the server for specific needs,
and there is a large public library of Apache add-ons.
(Pronounced lee-nucks or lih-nucks). A freely distributable open source
operating system that runs on a number of hardware platforms. The
kernel was developed mainly by Linus Torvalds. Because it's free, and
because it runs on many platforms, including PCs and Macintoshes, Linux has
become an extremely popular alternative to proprietary operating systems.
Acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. (Pronounced guh-nome.)
GNOME is part of the GNU project and part of the free software, or open
source, movement. GNOME is a Windows-like desktop system that works on UNIX
and UNIX-like systems and is not dependent on any one window manager. The
current version runs on Linux, FreeBSD, IRIX and Solaris. The main objective
of GNOME is to provide a user-friendly suite of applications and an
Did You Know...
Source Definition was written by Bruce Perens as "The Debian
Free Software Guidelines", and refined it using the comments of
the Debian developers in a month-long e-mail conference in June,
1997. He removed the Debian-specific references from the
document to create the "Open Source Definition."