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Angel Foster
Angel Foster

Open Source 20 Years: 6 Pivotal Moments In Open Source History

In the 1950s and 1960s, computer operating software and compilers were delivered as a part of hardware purchases without separate fees. At the time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software providing the ability to fix bugs or add new functions.[1] Universities were early adopters of computing technology. Many of the modifications developed by universities were openly shared, in keeping with the academic principles of sharing knowledge, and organizations sprung up to facilitate sharing. As large-scale operating systems matured, fewer organizations allowed modifications to the operating software, and eventually such operating systems were closed to modification. However, utilities and other added-function applications are still shared and new organizations have been formed to promote the sharing of software.

Open Source 20 Years: 6 pivotal moments in open source history

In the 1950s and into the 1960s almost all software was produced by academics and corporate researchers working in collaboration,[3] often shared as public-domain software. As such, it was generally distributed under the principles of openness and cooperation long established in the fields of academia, and was not seen as a commodity in itself. Such communal behavior later became a central element of the so-called hacking culture (a term with a positive connotation among open-source programmers). At this time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software machine code because users frequently modified the software themselves, because it would not run on different hardware or OS without modification, and also to fix bugs or add new functions.[4][5][failed verification] The first example of free and open-source software is believed to be the A-2 system, developed at the UNIVAC division of Remington Rand in 1953,[6] which was released to customers with its source code. They were invited to send their improvements back to UNIVAC.[7] Later, almost all IBM mainframe software was also distributed with source code included. User groups such as that of the IBM 701, called SHARE, and that of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), called DECUS, were formed to facilitate the exchange of software. The SHARE Operating System, originally developed by General Motors, was distributed by SHARE for the IBM 709 and 7090 computers. Some university computer labs even had a policy requiring that all programs installed on the computer had to come with published source-code files.[8]

In the 1980s, parallel to the free software movement, software with source code was shared on BBS networks. This was sometimes a necessity; software written in BASIC and other interpreted languages could only be distributed as source code, and much of it was freeware. When users began gathering such source code, and setting up boards specifically to discuss its modification, this was a de facto open-source system.

The label "open source" was adopted by some people in the free software movement at a strategy session[39] held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator. The group of individuals at the session included Christine Peterson who suggested "open source",[1] Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, Michael Tiemann, and Eric S. Raymond. Over the next week, Raymond and others worked on spreading the word. Linus Torvalds gave an all-important sanction the following day. Phil Hughes offered a pulpit in Linux Journal. Richard Stallman, pioneer of the free software movement, flirted with adopting the term, but changed his mind.[39] Those people who adopted the term used the opportunity before the release of Navigator's source code to free themselves of the ideological and confrontational connotations of the term "free software". Netscape released its source code under the Netscape Public License and later under the Mozilla Public License.[40]

The term was given a big boost at an event organized in April 1998 by technology publisher Tim O'Reilly. Originally titled the "Freeware Summit" and later named the "Open Source Summit",[41] the event brought together the leaders of many of the most important free and open-source projects, including Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Eric Allman, Guido van Rossum, Michael Tiemann, Paul Vixie, Jamie Zawinski of Netscape, and Eric Raymond. At that meeting, the confusion caused by the name free software was brought up. Tiemann argued for "sourceware" as a new term, while Raymond argued for "open source". The assembled developers took a vote, and the winner was announced at a press conference that evening. Five days later, Raymond made the first public call to the free software community to adopt the new term.[42] The Open Source Initiative was formed shortly thereafter.[1][39] According to the OSI Richard Stallman initially flirted with the idea of adopting the open source term.[43] But as the enormous success of the open source term buried Stallman's free software term and his message on social values and computer users' freedom,[44][45][46] later Stallman and his FSF strongly objected to the OSI's approach and terminology.[47] Due to Stallman's rejection of the term "open-source software", the FOSS ecosystem is divided in its terminology; see also Alternative terms for free software. For example, a 2002 FOSS developer survey revealed that 32.6% associated themselves with OSS, 48% with free software, and 19.4% in between or undecided.[48] Stallman still maintained, however, that users of each term were allies in the fight against proprietary software.

By the end of the 1990s, the term "open source" gained much traction in public media[49] and acceptance in software industry in context of the dotcom bubble and the open-source software driven Web 2.0.

In November 1998, the Qt toolkit was licensed under the free/open source Q Public License (QPL) but debate continued about compatibility with the GNU General Public License (GPL). In September 2000, Trolltech made the Unix version of the Qt libraries available under the GPL, in addition to the QPL, which has eliminated the concerns of the Free Software Foundation. KDE has since been split into KDE Plasma Workspaces, a desktop environment, and KDE Software Compilation, a much broader set of software that includes the desktop environment.

Steve Ballmer once compared the GPL to "a cancer", but has since stopped using this analogy. Indeed, Microsoft has softened its public stance towards open source[citation needed] in general, with open source since becoming an important part of the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. However, at the same time, behind the scenes, Microsoft's actions have been less favourable toward the open-source community.

As of 2012[update], no correct open-source implementation of OOXML exists, which validates the critics' remarks about OOXML being difficult to implement and underspecified. Presently, Google cannot yet convert Office documents into its own proprietary Google Docs format correctly. This suggests that OOXML is not a true open standard, but rather a partial document describing what Microsoft Office does, and only involving certain file formats.

In 2006 Microsoft launched its CodePlex open source code hosting site, to provide hosting for open-source developers targeting Microsoft platforms. In July 2009 Microsoft even open sourced some Hyper-V-supporting patches to the Linux kernel, because they were required to do so by the GNU General Public License,[57][58] and contributed them to the mainline kernel. Note that Hyper-V itself is not open source. Microsoft's F# compiler, created in 2002, has also been released as open source under the Apache license. The F# compiler is a commercial product, as it has been incorporated into Microsoft Visual Studio, which is not open source.

In 2012, Microsoft launched a subsidiary named Microsoft Open Technologies Inc., with the aim of bridging the gap between proprietary Microsoft technologies and non-Microsoft technologies by engaging with open-source standards.[59] This subsidiary was subsequently folded back into Microsoft as Microsoft's position on open source and non-Windows platforms became more favourable.

Microsoft's stance on open source has shifted as the company began endorsing more open-source software. In 2016, Steve Balmer, former CEO of Microsoft, has retracted his statement that Linux is a malignant cancer.[61] In 2017, the company became a platinum supporter of the Linux Foundation. By 2018, shortly before acquiring GitHub, Microsoft led the charts in the number of paid staff contributing to open-source projects there.[62] While Microsoft may or may not endorse the original philosophy of free software, data shows that it does endorse open source strategically.[original research?]

Since the 1990s, the release of major new programming languages in the form of open-source compilers and/or interpreters has been the norm, rather than the exception. Examples include Python in 1991, Ruby in 1995, and Scala in 2003. In recent times, the most notable exceptions have been Java, ActionScript, C#, and Apple's Swift until version 2.2 was proprietary. Partly compatible open-source implementations have been developed for most, and in the case of Java, the main open-source implementation is by now very close to the commercial version.

Since its first public release in 1996, the Java platform had not been open source, although the Java source code portion of the Java runtime was included in Java Development Kits (JDKs), on a purportedly "confidential" basis, despite it being freely downloadable by the general public in most countries. Sun later expanded this "confidential" source code access to include the full source code of the Java Runtime Environment via a separate program which was open to members of the public, and later made the source of the Java compiler javac available also. Sun also made the JDK source code available confidentially to the Blackdown Java project, which was a collection of volunteers who ported early versions of the JDK to Linux, or improved on Sun's Linux ports of the JDK. However, none of this was open source, because modification and redistribution without Sun's permission were forbidden in all cases. Sun stated at the time that they were concerned about preventing forking of the Java platform. 350c69d7ab


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