What is open source? How about Open Source?

I saw this today on Slashdot. I’ll admit that there always seems to be some contention here at Microsoft. Even on our team, where we do release source code and allow others to participate in the development on www.codeplex.com, seems to go back and forth.

Are our projects, the Developer Power Toys, open source? We use a fairly liberal license, we allow people to get the code, make changes, contribute back, etc. You can recompile with your changes and redistribute.

How about a project that that publishes the source to a select set of paying customers?

Then there are some that feel there is “Open Source” and “open source” where both mean something different…. A complexity that was noticed by the first commenter to the Slashdot post. Who says: “This is why I don't like Open Source as a term; it is far too misleading. In fact, it doesn't actually mean anything other than the fact there is a mechanism by which you can see the source code that doesn't involve getting a court-order.”


Comments (2)
  1. kfarmer says:

    Actually, I kinda think "Open Source" (or "Open Sores", according to some), kinda politicized the fun out of "Public Domain" we had back in the 80s.

    In all honesty, letting non-programmers view the source is as useful as making an English major audit a seminar on LS-coupling.  Sure, they could follow along, but they probably have more interesting (to them) things to do.  How many OS-bandwagoneering managers actually have read the source, let along made any (useful, and non-breaking) modifications?

    Giving people the ability to recompile the app?  In all the twenty-some years since I’ve started programming, I’ve only needed — or wanted — to recompile someone else’s application only a couple times.  There’s no value to it, nor any actual need if you don’t have such tight coupling — such as all those custom ncurses redirections I’ve seen some Linux friends use every time they download something.

  2. Mike says:

    Well, the glib answer is that "Open Source" is whatever OSI approve, since they hold the trademark on the term.

    I doubt you’ll ever get a consensus on the real question of what people *want* the term to mean. Personally I like the Debian criteria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian_Free_Software_Guidelines or http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq.html), just because the tests ("dissident", "desert island" and "tentacles of evil") make the issues concrete. They make it clear *why* a given requirement matters, in a way that legal verbiage doesn’t.

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