Open Source Turns 20 Years Old: How This Term Came Into Existence?

Netscape released the source code for its Netscape Communicator
web browser 20 years ago, a discussion was sparked in the
developer community. A new term was being sought that could
appropriately explain this stuff. A related term, “free
software,” existed but its seeming focus on price confused the

For the first time, on February 3rd, 1998 in Palo Alto, the
term Open Source was coined by Christine Peterson, who was
executive director at Foresight Institute.

Christine Peterson has recently shared her unpublished
of how she came up with the term and how she
proposed it. “Oldtimers must then launch into an explanation,
usually given as follows: “We mean free as in freedom, not free
as in beer.”,” she writes in her account.

As per Peterson, after Eric Raymond’s meeting with
Netscape, he took Foresight’s help to strategize and
refine their message. During that meeting itself on Feb 3rd,
Peterson, who believed the need for a clearer term to describe
such code, came up with the term Open Source Software.

Later that week, in another meeting on February 5, 1998,
with the help of Todd Anderson, she was able to gather
some kind of consensus around the open source name. “These were
some key leaders in the community, and they liked the new name,
or at least didn’t object.”

The Open Source Initiative was formed in following days.
People like Tim O’Reilly, Bruce Perens, and
others played a pivotal role in popularising the
term. Perens also adapted his Free Software Guidelines for
Debian GNU/Linux to serve as Open Source Definition (OSD).

Today, open source software and components are used in almost
all software and devices. What are your views on the importance
of open source? Share it and become a part of the discussion.

Also Read: What Is Open Source Hardware
And Why Should You Care?


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