Chapter 1. Open Source: A Brief History

What Is Open Source?

To have a reasonable discussion on the topic of open source, we first need to agree on what we mean by the term. After we establish a baseline definition, we’ll review a brief history of how and why it exists, and follow its maturation into a viable and valuable component within the development processes of many industries and software domains.

First, while it is valuable for everyone to read and understand the Open Source Initiative’s 10-point open source definition, clearly one of the most important truths about open source is that access to source code is a necessary but not sufficient component in defining whether any given software is truly open source. As the OSI’s definition clarifies, access to source code is a stepping stone that should be followed up with free redistribution—both legally and practically—as well as the removal of roadblocks (discrimination) against disparate (and possibly unpredicted) usage as well as disparate groups of people, both consumers and developers. The best and most valuable open source projects have low friction in all these areas—code access, code sharing, and freedom of use and distribution—allowing ease of use and ease of modification by any and all parties.

It is worth highlighting a key point of the OSI’s definition. While there are many open source projects available, simply putting the source code on the Internet is not sufficient. In particular, there are many open source ...

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