Open Source Initiative

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
OSI logo

The Open Source Initiative ( OSI ) is an organization dedicated to promoting open source software. It was founded in February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond . It certifies software licenses based on its own open source definition . Software distributed under these licenses may carry the organization's certification mark .


In early 1998, the company announced Netscape face of dwindling profits and fierce competition with the Internet Explorer from Microsoft , the source code to its flagship product , Netscape Navigator free. IBM placed its Apache HTTP Server under the Apache license in 1998 and the HP group founded its open source solutions operation in 1999 . The corporations reacted to the changed conditions of the markets and strong competition from developments in the Internet / WWW . A group of people interested in free software and GNU / Linux decided to introduce a new marketing term for free software to compete with proprietary software as business-friendly, less ideological, and free from the ethical and social components of the Free Software Foundation to be able to represent.

At the same time Bruce Perens , the former project manager of the Linux distribution Debian , drafted the open source definition . In view of the neighboring licenses, Debian was challenged to define more precisely what the freedom the project meant. Perens formulated these positions after discussions with other Debian developers in 1997 in the Debian Social Contract . This formulates the obligation that Debian remains completely free software, that the project will return all innovations to the community and that no bugs will be hidden. This is still set out in the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).

The OSD arose from the spirit and content of these two texts: The Debian-specific references were removed, “Free Software” was replaced by “Open Source Software” and the name was changed. Finally, one registered for Software in the Public Interest , the umbrella organization of Debian, a Certification Mark (CT) on the term "Open Source". A CT is a form of trademark or seal of approval that can be awarded to products by third parties:

"Since the community needs a reliable method to know whether a piece of software is really 'open-source', the OSI accepts applications for certification marks for this purpose: 'OSI-certified' [...] If you use the 'OSI- certified 'mark for your software, you can do so by distributing your software under a recognized license from the list and marking the software accordingly. "

- The OSI Certification Mark and Program

The movement was founded in 1998 by Jon "Maddog" Hall , Larry Augustin , Eric S. Raymond , Bruce Perens and others. Among the founders, E. Raymond is probably most identified with this movement. According to his self-description, he was and remains her “theoretician”, but he does not claim any exclusive claim to leadership for himself.

The Mozilla Public License , also designed by Mitchell Baker in 1998 for the planned Netscape Communicator , was one of the certified licenses right from the start, which brought the term open source a high level of media attention due to the spread of Netscape software.

After the Open Source Initiative was founded, the rights to the CT were transferred from Software in the Public Interest to the OSI. The OSI has since checked and certified a good five dozen licenses, which means that they can officially bear the protected title of "Open Source". In order to reduce the proliferation of the number of licenses, the OSI issued a list of 9 recognized licenses in 2007 that are either particularly suitable or are of great importance in the existing OSS environment.

Bruce Perens later left the OSI because he found the opposition to the Free Software Foundation to be harmful.


The open source initiative is run by a loose college of seasoned senior members, including Raymond and other co-founders. Even IT -Prominenz supports this feature, such as Linus Torvalds , Larry Wall and Guido van Rossum .

Part of the work is to check software license types for conformity with Bruce Perens' definition of open source . It is then referred to as an OSI approved license (English; a license confirmed by the OSI). A list of licenses is documented on the organization's website.

Since 2003, the work of the Open Source Initiative is no longer so publicly visible. Only their retired President Eric Raymond and the current President Michael Tiemann often write texts on current events.


  • The term open source found widespread use in the press from 1998 to 2000, but was initially not fully understood.
  • Numerous companies opened up to the idea of ​​an alternative open source operating system.
  • The Open Source Initiative was able to publish numerous internal memos from Microsoft, which set out the clear opposition to GNU / Linux and considerations about unclean methods of eliminating competition.

Definition of open source

In the open source definition of the open source initiative, the following is required:

Free sharing
The license may not prevent anyone from selling the software or redistributing it with other software in a software distribution . The license may not require a license fee.
Available source code
The software must be available in source code for all users.
Derivative works
The license must allow work derived from the basic software and its distribution under the same license as the basic software.
Author Source Code Integrity
The license must explicitly permit the distribution of software that is based on a modified version of the original source code. The license can require that such changes lead to a new name or a new version number of the software and that such changes be documented. The license may require that patches for the original code may only be distributed if they may be distributed with the source code.
No discrimination against people or groups
The license may not deny individual persons or groups the use of the software, e.g. B. the citizens of a particular state.
No usage restriction
The license may not restrict the use of the software, e.g. B. no exclusion of military or commercial use or the like.
Grant of license
The license must apply to everyone who receives the software without e.g. B. having to acquire a registration or other license.
Product neutrality
The license must be product-neutral and may be e.g. B. not refer to a specific distribution.
The license may not restrict other software
For example, it must not demand that it can only be distributed using open source software.
The license must be technology-neutral
You may z. B. does not require that the distribution can only be distributed via web / CD / DVD .

Public domain (Public Domain) software meets these conditions, if the entire source code is made available.

Statements and Implications

The OSD is therefore not a license, but a standard against which licenses are measured.

While most open source licenses allow anyone to use the software or media content without restriction, there are some that provide explicit exceptions. These include licenses with which authors wanted to prohibit the use of their software in business, genetic research or an abortion clinic for political or ideological reasons. From the point of view of the OSD, however, these concerns do not belong in a license.

Therefore, the OSD stipulates for open source licenses that they may not discriminate against persons or groups (section 5) and against areas of application (section 6). When passed on to third parties, the license should be effective without the rights holder (the copyright holder) and the licensee signing a contract (Section 7).

The validity of license agreements without a signature is currently also being discussed for the area of ​​commercial or contractual licenses (see below), in this respect the explanation of no. 7 of the OSD, ver. 1.0, (ibid., P. 179) a wish that can rarely be fulfilled in practice. In the explanation of the Ver. 1.761 states that this should exclude a closure due to additional requirements such as an NDA .

The OSD no. 8 states that the rights granted may not be made dependent on the program being part of a particular distribution. It must remain free even if it is detached from this distribution.

Multiple licensing options

The MPL is the only license that specifically mentions the possibility of multiple licensing . Point 13 allows the original developer, namely Netscape, but not the contributors, to put their code under the MPL and at the same time an alternative license under which users can make their choice. This shows the signature of Perens, who recommends any commercial license plus the GPL as a free license to those who want to keep their software free and sell it at the same time.

A strange construction is the CVW license from MITER . It is just a type of framework license that excludes MITER's trademarks from advertising derivative works. In addition, it allows the recipient of the software to choose whether to use it under the GPL or the MPL, both of which are included in the CVW license .

Criticism of the open source term

However, some proponents of the term “ free software ” - in particular Richard Stallman - criticize the fact that the new term “open software” means that moral motivation and the idea of ​​freedom from software take a back seat. It is also criticized that the term open source can be misunderstood.

Even so, the definitions of free and open software, as made by the FSF and the OSI, are essentially the same.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Open Source Certification: Press Releases | Open Source Initiative
  2. ^ Moody, G. (2002): Rebel code: Linux and the open source revolution. London: Penguin Books. S. 182 ff, ISBN 0-14-029804-5 .
  3. Reijswoud, V. of, & Jager, A. de. (2008): Free and Open Source Software for Development. P. 30 ff. Arxiv : 0808.3717 .
  4. ^ Debian Social Contract
  5. ^ The OSI Certification Mark and Program ( Memento of April 17, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  6. cf. OSI, The Approved Licenses
  7. List of the open source licenses confirmed by the OSI
  8. cf. Perens, 1999, 185
  9. ^ Richard Stallman: "Why" Free Software "is better than" Open Source "". Status: June 19, 2007. URL: (accessed on September 18, 2007)