Open Source

OpenSource is a style of software licensing and distribution, related to FreeSoftware (see also FreeSoftwareVsOpenSource).

The consumer of an open source program has the rights to do the following things to the source code:

Open source isn't PublicDomain. That means there is a license involved and the license has restrictions, which can include:

Licenses vary considerably on which of and how these restrictions apply. FrankHecker? has written (draft 20000620) a clear (though long) piece that explains the variations.

Depending on the Software, there are quite a long list of licenses involved in OpenSource:

EricRaymond, author of TheCathedralAndTheBazaar and TheHalloweenDocument commentary, and others have founded an organization and site to promote the concept.

Potential down- and upsides to OpenSource

I'd like to clarify the difference between open source as platform and as a development method (OpenSourcePlatform)

At the risk of defining YetAnotherMethodology, I would like to characterise OpenSource. This list is an interpretation of my reading of EricRaymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar book ISBN 1565927249 . The purpose of this characterisation (I'm not a fan of PigeonHoleThinking?, but sometimes it has its benefits) is to try and draw parallels between OpenSource and ExtremeProgramming in order to define what might be understood by CorporateOpenSource.

-- GerritRiessen

See also OpenSourceProjectOrganization.

Note the above describes the Bazaar Development Process described by EricRaymond in TheCathedralAndTheBazaar. FreeSoftware and OpenSource are involved strictly with the practice of providing full access to source code to your clients without imposing onerous restrictions on its use.

[If no one objects here, I'll come back in a week or so and ReFactor the first section to better reflect the 4 freedoms, and OSS Definition]

Homebrew and Open Source

Are the OpenSource and FreeSoftware communities really a software version of the HomeBrewComputerClub? I guess the key differences are 1) software vs. hardware hacking, and 2) licenses to guarantee everyone's hacking stays in the community.

I would be really interested in thoughts on this from a former member of the HomeBrewComputerClub (1970s/1980s Silicon Valley group that started Apple, and many other computer companies).

-- EricRunquist

As both an original Homebrew Computer Club member, and open source proponent (I was part of the original GNU WebChat? project in 1995, and have enjoyed using Linux since 1994), I'd say the most stunning similarity between Homebrew and today's Open Source movement is the spirit of freely sharing information and ideas. At Homebrew code was often shared freely, just as we did with schematics and information about group chip buys.

If you are interested in more detailed information about the Homebrew Computer Club see

-- BobLash?

Websites involved in Open Source Dev:

People involved in Open Source: RichardStallman and the FreeSoftwareFoundation reject "Open Source". They promote FreeSoftware, which is philosophically distinct (and predates OSS by about a decade). However, FreeSoftware is often considered to be a subset (or superset, depending on who you ask) of the OpenSource movement.

It's suprising that MicroSoft has not been using a MondeGreen for OpenSource as open sores within its documents.

In UserFriendly, Illiad used this represent industry ridicule of OpenSource in early 1999; two years later, he played on his earlier joke by referring to MicroSoft's SharedSource? plan as 'shared sores'.

Question from someone else: is MicrosoftCorporation into SponsoredOpenSource these days?

There's also Castor, which is a java-based project that generates source for java objects that represent XML data files.

Why doesn't someone create a Wiki for Source Code examples? Or, if there is one, where is it? You mean, like CodePedia and MassMind? Are there any others?

AnswerMe Are there any good examples of failed open source projects, what happened, and how things could have been different (with or without open source development)? I have heard many good things about different aspects of the open source paradigm, but, I'd really like to know more about the down side of open source development. That way, I can have a more rounded understanding of the pros and cons of each. Thanks. - IntaekLim

Specific examples are what you asked for, and I hope someone more informed provides some.

Broad conclusions, however, need not anecdotes, but a broad base of evidence. Good attempts to derive lessons from well designed studies:

The Institute for Software Research at the University of California at Irvine has a large body of empirically-based research available on its Open Source Software Development Project's homepage at

The International Institute of Infonomics, University of Maastricht, Netherlands published their Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study (FLOSS Study) in June 2002, available online at

Both resources might help you sharpen your question, as different criteria and metrics for measuring 'success' and 'failure' make comparison of open vs. closed software development problematic at best. We can't see inside closed shops as easily as we can browse Source Forge (see Part V of FLOSS Study: "Source Code Survey" for an attempt to glean information from code repositories). We have no comparable way of learning closed shops' true rate of 'success' on any conceivable metric; the best proxy would be a sample taken to be representative of the entire population of closed shops, but even then, the ones that refused to participate in such a study might well differ systematically from the norm. Failures certainly may make it to market, but they are not generally advertised as failures. For that matter, nominal open source projects that are failures on commercial and conventional open source criteria alike may well be counted as successful by their primary developers, for instance, student projects. These would need to be somehow eliminated from any code survey. In sum, like most software quality or programmer productivity questions, this is a very difficult question to answer empirically.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that systems tools or infrastructure software attracts more &/or more talented developers to open source projects than application or enduser software, making the latter more prone to failure in open source development (see examples above). How would one operationalize these variables in order to substantiate or falsify this perception? I'd like to know myself. -- PaulWilson

Please provide a link on OpenSource rationale... as the only profession on the planet that en masse provides a cost free service I think this would help: much appreciated.

As a developer, my time and sometimes my ability are limited, so I use OpenSource software. Because I rely on OpenSource software -- the product of other developers' effort -- I feel it appropriate to contribute my effort in return. Therefore, I write OpenSource software.

Without OpenSource, we would be forced to reinvent many wheels, and the evolution of software would thus be impeded. Earning a living from software development is only a small motivation -- for me at least -- to write software. I mainly write software because it's my contribution to building a better world, so I give it away.

For every example of a successful, useful OpenSource project, I can give you 20 or more examples that ended after the few programmers that created the project, stopped working on the project so they could get a paying job to feed their families. I am well aware of the few very successful OpenSource projects including Linux, Apache and others. I would like to point out a few of the problems with OpenSource.

Likewise, for every example of a successful, useful ClosedSource project I can give you 20 or more examples that went out of business, leaving their users in the lurch. At least when an OpenSource project dies, its source is still there for people to use and maintain.

For all the reasons above, I don't think OpenSource or "free software" is a victim-less crime. -- DavidClarkd

Given all the responses above, I don't think OpenSource is a crime. ClosedSource isn't a crime either, but it's akin to being sold a new car with the hood/bonnet welded shut. Sure, you might never intend to fix it yourself, but if the manufacturer goes out of business, no-one can fix it. At least with the hood free to open, someone can open it and fix it no matter what happens. -- DaveVoorhis

Apple is very much like that "welded shut" bonnet whereas Google is more in the open source camp. I have traditionally disliked Apple products since the 1970's but I own 2 iPhones, an iPad Air and Apple TV. Yes, these are closed products but I just want the functionality they come with. I don't view them as a product I would want to screw around with. I have used Linux for about 15 years but have never downloaded the source. It is just not worth my time to look at the code, understand enough of it to matter and then have to throw away the changes when the next version comes out. Android from Google is arguably not as user friendly as iOS because it comes in so many flavors. I think it would be a bad thing for a number of competing versions of my system to come to market and do nothing but confuse my potential buyers and hurt my reputation.

There's considerable difference between a consumer gadget and enterprise software. When a consumer gadget breaks, you throw it away and buy another. OpenSource for such Apple products would be nice, but isn't necessary. When enterprise software breaks or can't be updated because its maintenance is no longer viable, not having the source code can ruin the business.

There are ways to have the source code available if the owners aren't willing to continue developing and debugging the code. Open source isn't the only way. As a professional programmer, I expect to get paid for my work. I have no problem paying a reasonable price for the tools that allow me to make a good living. In fact, Red Hat made a whole business selling software to companies that could download the source code for Linux for free. Business knows that free rarely pays. I don't think any professional should work for free as that will degrade the value of those who need to make a living charging for their time and are deserving of just compensation. Many professional organizations forbid any of their members from giving away their services or even undercutting others on price alone. That might be going a bit too far but I agree with the sentiment. -- DavidClarkd

Sure, code escrow and the like is viable. However, you appear to be conflating OpenSource with "free and unpaid". The former does not obligate the latter. Whilst OpenSource products like Linux can be downloaded cost-free, what's notable is that RedHat, Canonical, SUSE and others aren't making revenues from selling Linux per se; they make revenues -- very good ones -- from selling Linux support. The difference is profound, and demonstrates where the real value lies: Linux itself (i.e., the source code) is essentially worthless; it's Linux knowledge that is valuable.

You say "Linux itself is essentially worthless" which is an unsupported and therefore worthless remark.

It's self-evident. You can't make money on Linux source code (please read what I wrote) -- or the binaries compiled from it -- because it's freely available cost-free. That makes it financially worthless. Linux expertise, however, is highly valuable.

I said that people who want to charge for software, they have created, are undercut when others say it is worthless.

How so?

Please tell me how you can charge for software that you allow to be given away in source form?

Charge for documentation, customisation, installation, support, consulting, or further development to meet specific needs. The last item -- development to meet specific needs -- is an excellent way to get paid for OpenSource, and it works well in a generally OpenSource world: Let's say company <x> needs software <s>, and <s> isn't available as OpenSource. So, <x> pays developer <d> to develop <s> and releases <s> as OpenSource. Now company <y> can use <s> for free. Company <y> saves money, but company <x> has spent money. Now company <x> needs software <p>. It is available as OpenSource, because <y> paid developer <e> to develop it and release it as OpenSource. This time, company <x> saves money because company <y> has spent money. Overall, companies <x> and <y> have each spent money on developers <d> and <e> to develop software <s> and <p>, but both <x> and <y> have saved money on code they didn't have to develop. Neither has had to spend money on duplicated effort. If you extend that to hundreds, thousands, or millions of companies, it means any individual company spends only a relatively tiny percentage of the overall development cost on code that isn't yet OpenSource. Every company saves development money, the developers get paid to develop code, duplication is minimised, and the industry as a whole (both software developers and users) benefit from the knowledge and effort that is shared.

How is equating free and open source not logical? Why do you mix up the difference between charging for the program and changing for service or support? I never mentioned either and I obviously think that service and support should be paid for as well as the use of the program. Please name the profession that works for free?

I know of no profession that works for free, but remember that the "free" in OpenSource is free as in freedom, not necessarily free as in free beer. Before the microcomputer revolution of the late 1970s, mainframe software was almost invariably sold with source code. It's the microcomputer world that thought hiding source code provides a competitive advantage -- which it does, until a competitor creates a better piece of software to do the same thing yours does and then you're forced to compete. With OpenSource, you differentiate based on expertise, knowledge, business relationships and domain knowledge rather than your ability to hide a collection of bytes.

Your conclusions doesn't refute any of the arguments that I made. I obviously know that some companies have given away the software and sold support. Redhat has done very well for themselves off a product they didn't design or program. There are also many companies that don't make their software open source like Oracle, Microsoft for almost all it's products, Adobe and thousands of other companies. Are you saying that these companies aren't making a profit off the software they have paid to have written?

Where did I say that? Of course, there are many companies making money from ClosedSource software. There are also lots of companies making money from OpenSource software.

Last I read, Linus Torvalds was getting in excess of 1 million dollars a year from the Linux foundation to work on just the core of Linux. How much support do you think Linus does?

He's not paid to provide Linux support. (1 million dollars per annum? Do you have a citation for that?) He's paid to create and maintain Linux kernel code. He's recognised and respected for his ability to create and maintain Linux kernel code, so he's justifiably paid for it.

The fact is that a few companies have found a way to make "open source" pay, either through advertising, a sugar daddy, or service. Most software that is currently profitable today isn't open source. Don't take my word for it, go look it up in InfoWorld or any other industry source. As a creator and developer of software for most of my adult life, I am personally insulted that others would think that, as a professional, my efforts and work is worthless and must be given away for free. You argue like a child. Why not make your case with arguments, and facts and show where my arguments and facts are incorrect? If this is a debate, you don't seem to know how to play the game. -- DavidClarkd

Who said your efforts and work are worthless? As I pointed out above, if you're a good programmer you'll be paid for your ability to make good code, not for your ability to keep it to yourself. However, if you do keep your code to yourself, why would a smart business risk loss by buying ClosedSource binaries from you when you could go out of business?

There's nothing that stops you from (and there are good reasons for doing so) commercially licensing your software to (say) enterprise users and providing it as OpenSource. Will some companies use it for free and not pay you? Almost certainly, but it's unlikely they'd have paid you for it whether it's OpenSource or ClosedSource. At least their using it is helping to build your reputation and increase your exposure to those who are happy to pay for your expertise, customisations and support. Think of it as free marketing.

Why do you make comments while ignoring all that I have written? This is very annoying! I have already said why I think open source is bad (multiple reasons) and how I would overcome the problem for a business if I couldn't support the code. I can always let people use the code without forcing them to pay, that doesn't require open source. There are many ways of marketing non open source and I am familiar with them all. Just read the posts above. -- DavidClarkd

Where have I ignored what you've written? I've responded to every point.

Yes, I know you think OpenSource is bad. I think you're wrong, and I've explained why I think you're wrong.

Contrast with ProprietarySource, ClosedSource.

See also: LinuxCommunity, FreeSoftware, SourceForScience, TheDumbingDownOfProgramming, FundingOpenSource, OpenSourceAsAgileProcess


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