Open Source, by Any Other Name....

Lora Bentley

Last year, Open Source Initiative president Michael Tiemann took a stand. Too many companies were playing fast and loose with the "open source" label, he said. As an example, he pointed to SugarCRM's "commercial open source" offering, which at the time was not released under an OSI-approved license. A company called Aras added to the confusion with its "Microsoft-based open source offering."


Increasingly, Tiemann said, customers were becoming confused as to what they were getting -- and what their responsibilities were -- when they opted for "open source" software. That's why he and the rest of the OSI pressured companies using non-OSI approved licenses to stop using the "open source" label and choose something else. Maybe something like Microsoft's "shared source."


As a result, companies like Socialtext submitted their own licenses for OSI-approval and won it, or like CentricCRM, switched to existing OSI-approved licenses. Oddly enough, however, Microsoft's shared source licenses won OSI approval shortly thereafter, which complicated matters further.


OStatic blogger Reuven Lerner reiterates that the problem still exists today. Despite OSI's best efforts and intentions, there really is no one meaning for "open source." The only way to know what you're getting is to "read the fine print," he says, and ask the vendor a lot of questions regarding what open source means for its business.

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