by Dave McAllister


September 1, 2011

Has the meaning of how we use “open” become diluted? 

Way back in the day, when arguments about “Free Software” were around “free as in speech” or “free as in beer”., a new phrase was coined to avoid the issues around free. And thus Open Source was born.

Ever since then we’ve been seeing more activities attached to open. Off the top of my head I can think of:

  • Open Source
  • Open Standards
  • Open Specifications
  • Open Core
  • Open Ecosystem
  • Open API
  • Open Governance
  • Open Data
  • Open Code
  • Open Development
  • Free/Libre Open Source Software
  • Open Community
  • Open Roadmaps
  • Open Surface (my new personal pet peeve. Why would we need this?)
And I’m sure I missed many of them.  (Feel free to add to the list in the comments).
There’s a great cartoon floating around the net somewhere. Two guys (circa Mad Men (early 60’s for the televison impaired)are talking. One says, “Just put Open Source in front of it. Trust me, I’m in PR”.
So, is there a clear meaning for open? Do we need a meaning, definition or measurement of open? Is open of and for the “community” or is it related to license, a copyright?
In the past I’ve been adverse to the idea of defining open (in the context we are discussing here). More recently, when I thought about it, while listening to a keynote at OSCON, I decided that the term had become meaningless.
Now, I’m undecided.
If we have a meaning, then we can measure the way companies and communities approach openness. And that can aid in leveraging openness within those companies. Atfer all, no one likes to lose.
So, what do you assume when you see “Open [fill-in-the-blank]? Let me know.


  • By finid - 7:05 AM on September 2, 2011  

    “Open” has been bastardized, just as the FSF warned.

    Android is open source, right? MS has some open source tools, too.

    IF you want to be honest, just use Free Software.