October 4, 2003

Open source by any other name?

Author: Joe Klemmer

Free/Libre/Open Source Software. FLOSS. It's an unwieldy name, but that's understandable given the diverse factions and groups in the community with different goals and ideals. I think we can do better, with the more succinct Open License.

Others have suggested alternative names, aiming for a name that will embody the spirit of the community without stepping on the concerns of the different groups. None of them has really taken hold so far, partly because none of the alternate names has really been able to fit every part of the community. The best suggestions have been those which focus on the licensing aspects of the different software. People outside the community have a basic understanding of the concepts "license" and "open." And emphasizing the licensing aspects of the software would go a long way toward dispelling the FUD that's been used by The SCO Group, Microsoft, and others to portray the community as anti-license and anti-IP.

A few weeks ago, during a discussion of this very topic, the name Open License popped into my head. This could be used as an umbrella name to gather together all the different licenses being used. For example, when talking about software, you could say, "FreeBSD is an Open Licensed OS released under the BSD license" or "Apache is an Open Licensed web server released under the GPL license." This would work for any of the licenses and software out there, be they GPL, LGPL, MIT, BSD, or the plethora of others. Whatever the licensing scheme, if it can be classified as FLOSS it can be classified as Open Licensed. The Open License moniker can also be extended to licenses that pertain to documents and file formats. Anything that can be licensed could, conceivably, fit under the Open Licensed banner. Using this label would promote the continuation of, and development with, the various licensing options available to the community, while giving the outside world a better understanding and better focus on what the community has to offer.

Uniting under the Open License flag would give us the best of both worlds. We would have one focal point for the users, businesses, and media to see, yet still keep the freedom and diversity that is the heart and soul of the community.

Click Here!