20 years of the Open Source Initiative (OSI)

It’s time for a little open source history.

The ‘open source’ label itself was created at a strategy session held by members of the group that we now call the Open Source Initiative (OSI) on February 3rd, 1998 in Palo Alto, California USA.

The term was proposed by Christine Peterson, she is co-founder and past president of Foresight Institute, a nanotech public interest group.

That same month, the OSI was founded as a general educational and advocacy organisation with the aim of raising awareness and adoption for open development processes, methodologies, working practices and all manner of open goodness.

20 years on

Today, 20 years on in 2018 (we’re presuming that you can add 20+1998 and get 2018) we can see the group making some defining statements about where open source is and how the open approach to design, development, team workflows and more has helped us get to where we are today with a technology that has ‘even’ been embraced by Microsoft.

The OSI says that open source has become ubiquitous, well – perhaps not quite, but it has indeed become recognised across industries as a fundamental component to infrastructure, as well as a key factor that can (in many cases) help create innovation.

To commemorate the brace of decades being noted here, the Open Source Initiative is launching the OpenSource.Net portal, which will serve both as a community of practice and a mentorship programme.

No openwashing, thanks

With so many vendors claiming to have ‘got the open religion’ but in fact doing nothing more than openwashing a few ‘less than key’ elements of their total technology stacks, the OSI says its next goals to promote open source’s viability/value to issues and look for areas where it can promote and champion implementation and what it calls ‘authentic participation’.

Not that most will need a reminder (and the above should have been enough of a clue anyway), but we at the Computer Weekly Open Source Insider blog define openwashing as the act of offering a certain amount of source code out as open but:

a) keeping the cash cow code of the vendor’s projects proprietary and closed

b) exploiting all commercial elements of project business for all they are worth and putting no discernible or definable hours into any so-called open projects

c) offering no substantial ‘code commits’ to any project that is opened and no substantial ‘code commits’ to any related projects from other groups

… so indeed, openwashing is an unpleasant neologism and the OSI seeks to avoid it through work with all its members listed here.

Future OSI goals

The OSI summarises some of its goals going forward as follows:

  • Development: To examine how open source has benefited code development at different companies in terms of costs, quality, customisation, security, support, and interoperability — the OSI will also look at how each firm manages open source development/contributions.
  • Business: To examine what business practices align best with open source and look at how each firm collaborates with others to enhance products and services.
  • Community Building: To look into how open source has helped firms connect with developers, businesses, non-profits, government and/or educational institutions.
  • Talent Nurturing: To examine how participation in the open source community helped companies attract and retain the best talent.
  • Leadership: To look at the future of open source and ask how open source will shape each industry vertical going forward.

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