The History of Open Source Software

Software

The term open source software, or OSS, was born in 1998 to replace the phrase “free software.” The free software movement, or FSM, actually began in 1983, with the help of computer programmer Richard Stallman. Of course, the hacker culture of the 1970’s spawned the ideas that created the foundation of FSM, including the emphasis on sharing and questioning.rnrnRichard Stallman launched the GNU project in 1983, and found the Free Software Foundation in 1985.

He wrote a number of essays on the importance of free software, and he also wrote the GNU Public License, which is still a widely used free software license. Stallman does not approve of the phrase “open source software” because it does not acknowledge freedom, and he believes that freedom is what makes software valuable. This is slightly ironic, because Stallman’s free software movement inspired the open source software movement. Stallman meant “free” as in “freedom,” not free as in without cost.

The individuals who coined the phrase “open source software” thought that it would appeal to the business world, and make more sense to non-programmers. The word “free” could be anything, as in “free love”. In 1998, Netscape announced their intention to release the source code for Navigator. In response to this suggestion, a group of individuals in Palo Alto decided that open source software should be the future term. The term free, they thought, sounded non-commercial. rnrnMost people don’t distinguish between the free software movement and the open source software movement, as they both are based on non-secretive code.

Certain individuals believe that the open source movement actually started in 1969, when the Internet was invented.rnrnThe Open Source Initiative, or OSI, suggested that releasing code was better for businesses. The group hoped to demonstrate the appeal of open source in a practical way, and for this reason they sought to eliminate the term “free.” Bruce Perens tried to register “open source” as a trademark, but he failed. Still, Netscape did release the code for Navigator, and was one of the first corporations to acknowledge the value of open source code.

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