The Blueprint of Collaboration: A History of Open Source

When a product allows the use of its content, design documents, and code, it is commonly referred to as open source. Originally, the term was exclusively used with software that has open content which encourages forms of open collaboration for its development. Eventually, the term branched out and included others such as those that use open source like in DAS or Distributed Antenna Systems, the Design Global, Manufacture Local socioeconomic production model, open-source architecture, and even an open source seed initiative.

While this initiative has already pervaded various sectors of society from agriculture to science and technology to even the media, it has distinct and interesting beginnings. Here is a brief rundown of how open source came into being.

Birth of the Term

Over the years, the term “open source” appeared in print, even from books dating centuries back. For instance, in a 1685 text written by Thomas Willis in The London Practice of Physick, Or The Whole Practical Part of Physick, he claimed that the fluid that comes from a wound “flow’d forth in a plentifull Stream as from an open Source…”

Meanwhile, the modern connotation of the phrase came in the latter part of the 1990s. After Netscape announced the release of their source code, a strategy meeting was held in Palo Alto on February 3, 1998, where the term “open source” was eventually coined from a suggestion by Christine Peterson. Attendees of the conference realized that the announcement brought with it the opportunity to educate people about the benefits of an open development process where an engaged community could participate in improving source codes.

Public Call for Adoption and Visibility

person codingEric Raymond, one of the attendees of the Palo Alto meeting where the term was coined, was one of the most active in organizing efforts to make the term popular. In February 1998, he made a public call for its adoption to the community of free software.

Afterwards, the term gained support from prominent figures in the community including Linus Torvalds and many key individuals like the founders of Perl, Sendmail, and Python among others, who were attendees in an Open Source Summit on April 1998. Large institutions like the Apache Software Foundation also threw their support for the open-source software movement’s development.

Gathering the Guardians

In an effort to protect and further explain what “open source” label is to the public, the Open Source Initiative was founded by Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens. Initially designed as an education and advocacy organization, the OSI was aimed at executing the mission agreed on at the Summit of 1998.

While its beginnings were mostly centered on the software industry, the applications of open source have transcended its initial intent. At present, open source’s idea of allowing an engaged community to take part in the development of content has pervaded various sectors including agriculture, science and technology, manufacturing, and the media among others. This spirit of collaboration has enabled the development of countless advancements in many industries over the years.