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Open source

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Open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to a software or program's source code. The term open source gained popularity with the rise of anti-corporate, anti-proprietary models of development. It has also been associated with attempts to define Web 2.0 as a cooperative movement among software developers seeking to ensure a democratic Internet through an emphasis on collaboration and sharing. Open source software software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees.

Open source code evolves through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as very large companies. Some examples of open source initiatives are Linux, Eclipse, Mozilla, and various projects hosted on SourceForge and elsewhere. Open source as applied to culture defines a culture in which fixations are made generally available. Participants in such an open source culture are able to modify those products, if needed, and redistribute them back into the community or other organizations.


Those involved with journalism and open source intelligence used the earliest known practices of open source that focused on accessibility rather than modification of sources. Software developers used to commonly release their code under public domain until they wanted to control how such freely accessible sources are modifed and distributed. Developers, like the Free Software Foundation, began to license their work, but they still kept it as free software.

The "open source" label came out of a strategy session held in Palo Alto, California in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator. Netscape used the opportunity before the release of Navigator's source code to clarify a potential confusion caused by the ambiguity of the word free in English, so that the perception of free software is not anti-commercial. Netscape listened and released their code as open source under the name of Mozilla.

This milestone may be commonly seen as the birth of the open source movement. However, earlier researchers with access to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) used a process called Request for Comments, which is similar to open standards, to develop telecommunication network protocols. Characterized by contemporary open source work, this collaborative process led to the birth of the Internet in 1969.

The Open Source Initiative formed in February 1998 by Eric S. Raymond and Bruce Perens. With at about 20 years of evidence from case histories of closed development versus open development already provided by the Internet, the OSI continued to present the 'open source' case to commercial businesses. They sought to bring a higher profile to the practical benefits of freely available source code, and they wanted to bring major software businesses and other high-tech industries into open source. Bruce Perens adapted Debian's Free Software Guidelines to make the Open Source Definition.


Critics have said that the term "open source" fosters an ambiguity of a different kind, in that it confuses the mere availability of the source with the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute it. Developers have used the term Free/Open-Source Software (FOSS), or Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (FLOSS), consequently, to describe open-source software that is freely available and free of charge. Since systems are freely worked on and amended it is necessary to consider the importance of a copyright. The idea of copyright for works of authorship is to protect and promote the incentive of making these original works. The idea of open source is then to eliminate the access costs of the consumer and the creator by reducing the restrictions of copyright. Yet problems pose when authors who wish to create something based on another work yet are not willing to pay the copyright holder for the rights to the copyrighted work. Proponents often argue that open source also relieves society of the administration and enforcement costs of copyright. Organizations such as Creative Commons have websites where individuals can file for alternative "licenses", or levels of restriction, for their works. These self-made protections free the general society of the costs of policing copyright infringement. Thus, on several fronts, there is an efficiency argument to be made on behalf of open sourced goods. The broader impacts of the open source movement, and the extent of its role in the development of new information sharing procedures, remains to be seen.

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