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November 23, 1998

OSI FORMED TO DRIVE OPEN SOURCE MESSAGE, TRADEMARK

By CBR Staff Writer

Momentum behind the open source industry shifted up another gear yesterday with news that a group of advocates have formed an Open Source Initiative organization to defend and own the Open Source trademark. Open source is often confused with free software, which is usually offered with free-of-charge binaries but no permission to see, modify or distribute source code. Eschewing traditional membership programs as too complicated to run, OSI – a California-registered non-profit educational and research association – is instead seeking to expand its initial six-strong board with representation from across the open source industry. It’s seeking applicants and claims it doesn’t require funding. Why it has even come to public attention remains something of a mystery. Apparently it wanted to stay out of the light but speaking to ComputerWire about its creation, OSI president and long-time open source advocate Eric Raymond said that for political reasons he didn’t want to go into: it didn’t become clear that the OSI effort required a formal organization until yesterday [Sunday]. While the formation of OSI itself appears to have as much to do with political circumstances and the egotistical nature of the open source industry, OSI can nevertheless point to some very specific points of departure. OSI has emerged from a loosely-formed Open Source campaign that followed the release of Netscape’s open source Mozilla client code in January which according to OSI opened up a new era for the hacker culture of the internet. SPI’s Bruce Perens registered an Open Source certification mark soon after to protect the term from abuse both accidental and deliberate. OSI president and long-time open source advocate Eric Raymond said that after a number high-profile companies including IBM, Netscape and Corel embraced the Open Source label, it became clear that the Open Source mark shouldn’t be tied to a single distribution (Debian) or one operating system (Linux), which was SPI’s raison d’etre. Before leaving SPI, a non-profit organization founded to help organizations develop and distribute Open Source software, Debian distribution pioneer Perens assigned the Open Source mark to Raymond, which led to the founding of OSI. In addition to owning and defending the Open Source certification mark OSI will manage the resources of opensource.org and develop branding programs. Right now OSI is an all-volunteer organization which consists of a web site, a mailing list, some intellectual property, and six directors. Perens serves as treasurer. OSI won’t be a Linux-specific organization, nor will it seek to control development of the Linux kernel or any other open source software. Indeed Raymond says the current Linux development model, which is controlled by Linus Torvald plus a cadre of twelve, completely sufficient. Even a Linux consortium such as the one Raymond’s been pressing for over the last few years (CI No 3,544) would have existed for infrastructure support and development purposes only. Control of the Linux kernel is not one of them, he stresses, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Now that OSI is born, Raymond says he’ll likely drop calls for a Linux grouping: my previous aim was never a Linux consortium per se, it was a support organization for open source, he said.

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