Using the term "open source"

(a quick follow up to my last post) Matt also struggles with something I’ve brought up multiple times.

Stephe calls out my mistake in calling a company open source. I’m not sure why he chose this time to do it, as I routinely mislabel companies “open source” for two reasons:

1. I don’t have a good, short, alternative descriptor for them, and
2. I’m really hoping that they’ll actually live up to the name.

I’m pretty restrictive on who deserves the term “open source.” For me, it’s simple: someone who publishes their source code under an OSI-approved license. I actually go one step further and don’t really consider someone open source unless they publish all of their customer-consuming source code under such a license.

(But the fact that it’s “simple” doesn’t make it simple. I’ve been struggling with this since early 2006, but more recently I’ve put forth a definition that I think works. Let me know if you do, too.)

Here was my suggestion earlier this year:

An open source company is one that, as its core revenue-generating business, actively produces, distributes, and sells (or sells services around) software under an OSI-approved license.

I still think it fits.

I like Matt’s definition, but Centric CRM doesn’t seem to fit it. As I’ve said, we need a name for companies like this. Many of them, such as Enterprise DB, are doing very good things for Open Source. They deserve some recognition for that. I’ve tossed around a bunch of monikers but none of them have the brevity and clarity I’d like. I’ll keep thinking, but would be glad to hear any options that readers may have. While it seems like a minor issue, I think it’s important. Maybe I’m being trite though – what do others think?


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