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Why We Still Need OSI 108

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the both-sides-of-the-debate dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "In response to a comment on yesterday's blog, Simon Phipps writes about the old rivalry between the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative (OSI). 'I have been (and in plenty of ways still am) a critic of OSI, as well as a firm supporter and advocate of the FSF. I believe OSI should be a member organisation with a representative leadership. ... But the OSI still plays a very important and relevant role in the world of software freedom.' For instance: Licence approvals have become a much more onerous process, with the emphasis on avoiding creation of new licences, updating old or flawed ones, and encouraging the retirement of redundant ones. It would be great to see the stewards of some of the (in retrospect) incorrectly approved licences ask for their retirement."
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Why We Still Need OSI

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  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @10:31AM (#32335992)
    Sure, it turns out that S.P.H.I.N.X. is not quite the threat they once were thought to be, but the Guild of Calamitous Intent still lives!
  • I so love a good geek slap-fight. Though this is not as good as a true geek throwdown [slashdot.org], it's entertaining nonetheless.
  • So tell me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob Riggs (6418) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @10:46AM (#32336196) Homepage Journal
    Who the heck was in charge of the OSI when all these stupid licenses were being approved? I know there was a huge fuss about some of the crap being approved back in the day. I always felt it was somewhat of a sham meant to give cover to commercial organizations wanting to create "almost open source" licenses. Anyone really desiring to release open source already had a plethora of valid and tested licenses to choose from.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Eric Raymond. Enough said.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Anyone really desiring to release open source already had a plethora of valid and tested licenses to choose from.

      And the OSI does a very nice job of categorizing them for the convenience of others. What exactly is your issue with them? That they recognize licenses as open source licenses of some kind that you personally dislike?

    • Re:So tell me... (Score:5, Informative)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:29AM (#32336762) Homepage
      OSI was purely a product of the Internet boom. It was designed to "mainstream" Open Source by encouraging businesses to open source their stuff. At a time when businesses were scrambling to make sense of this whole Internet thing, the OSI came along and tried to convince them that open source was a big part of embracing the Internet. To do this, they basically bent the definition of what "open source" was so they could get businesses who were highly suspicious of it on board. Any business that gave even lip service to open source was basically allowed to carry the label in the name of expanding the movement, even if their licenses amounted to little more than "you can look at some of the source, but only between 2-3pm on alternating Thursdays when the moon is full, and you can't copy any of it." That's an exaggeration of course, but it seems clear now that the over-eagerness to get businesses on board and the lengths that were taken to get them on board seriously watered down both the definition and the spirit of what open source is supposed to be.

      While Bruce Perens has managed to spin all of this into a lucrative career, and Eric S. Raymond managed to famously become a temporary Internet paper millionaire before his big mouth made him a pariah to the movement, the OSI's eagerness to shape (some would say distort) open source in order to appease businesses has been a major point of friction between them and the FSF. While many businesses today use open source, and some even contribute to it, it seems for the most part the fruit of OSI's labor is that many businesses learned how to use open source software to reduce their own development and/or licensing costs while giving nothing back to the community that produced it.

      So yes, from the perspective of many of the businesses, it was a big sham meant to give them an "open source stamp of approval" while remaining largely closed source and proprietary. The OSI, however, ignored that in the name of "spreading the movement", which happened to work out well for their own personal finances (if only temporarily, in Raymond's case).
      • by nomadic (141991)
        It was designed to "mainstream" Open Source by encouraging businesses to open source their stuff. At a time when businesses were scrambling to make sense of this whole Internet thing, the OSI came along and tried to convince them that open source was a big part of embracing the Internet.

        Yep, I always looked at it as the process by which big-L Libertarians try to reconcile their advocacy of free software with their obsessive love of money. Never really gelled.
        • by jedidiah (1196)

          The truth is that cooperation is not at odds with making a profit. Sometimes it is in everyone's
          best interests to collaborate. Governments play this role when individual companies are unable
          to act like grown up people and cooperate when it makes sense to do so.

          One key thing to remember is that most companies are not interested in being the next Microsoft
          or Apple. So a framework that is centered around this sort of approach to software does not work
          for most companies (or people).

          If something is not a part of

      • OSI's eagerness to shape (some would say distort) open source in order to appease businesses has been a major point of friction between them and the FSF.

        Why would definition of "open source" be a point of contention for the FSF? Aren't they themselves claiming that they're all about "free software", which is totally not the same thing as "open source"?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Why would definition of "open source" be a point of contention for the FSF? Aren't they themselves claiming that they're all about "free software", which is totally not the same thing as "open source"?

          OSI wanted to set itself up as the gatekeeper of all Open Source licenses, of which Free Software licenses are a subset. They wanted to be the ones to interpret the licenses for you and tell you which one to use. And they wanted to define the term Open Source to be similar to Free Software, when it obviously is not, based on past usage: "Open" means interoperable and "Open Source" means that you can see the source so that you can alter it for your own purposes (if you are a customer) or interoperate with it

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Any business that gave even lip service to open source was basically allowed to carry the label in the name of expanding the movement, even if their licenses amounted to little more than "you can look at some of the source, but only between 2-3pm on alternating Thursdays when the moon is full, and you can't copy any of it."

        Open means interoperable and Open Source means you can look at the source and usually even use it to make modifications to the product, but says nothing about redistribution. This is why Free Software is superior to Open Source software. However, both have their place; Open Source is still preferably to being completely closed.

        While Bruce Perens has managed to spin all of this into a lucrative career, and Eric S. Raymond managed to famously become a temporary Internet paper millionaire before his big mouth made him a pariah to the movement, the OSI's eagerness to shape (some would say distort) open source in order to appease businesses has been a major point of friction between them and the FSF.

        Personally I find Bruce Perens' desire to claim that he invented the term "Open Source" (hint: he didn't; even Caldera was using it before he claimed to have invented it, to advertise

      • Uhhhhh, dude, I'm still working for a living. I don't know where you bought your facts, but you should ask for your money back. Money back!

    • Re:So tell me... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:41PM (#32338544) Homepage

      Who the heck was in charge of the OSI when all these stupid licenses were being approved?

      If the license meets their "Open Source" definition, then they have to approve it if they want to maintain any credibility.

      This is no different than the way the FSF lists many licenses on their list of Free Software licenses that they tell you that you should not use. The licenses meet their definition of "Free Software" so they have to include them or they lose credibility.

    • Note that the story here was that, much to the current Board's surprise, it turned out that accounts for some previous years well in the past had been created but for some unknown reason not filed with the State of California. The first the current Board knew of this was when we heard about the suspension. We immediately located the old accounts and arranged for them to be retrospectively filed, and in response the State lifted its suspension.

      Naturally there are people who want to keep the memory of this incident alive and are doing their best to raise it every time OSI is mentioned. While not desirable, we've since heard from many sources that this is an all-too-common event for all-volunteer organisations.

      • by s4ltyd0g (452701)

        sorry about the bad down mod

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        that was very *recent* incident.

        so how's your mandatory 990-N filing with the federal IRS? last I checked OSI was delinquent on that too

        • We believe everything is now up to date - the IRS filings were part of the same issue we inherited from the early days of OSI. We (mainly OSI's Treasurer Danese Cooper actually) worked on these issues last year with the help of DLA Piper (law firm donating their service) and today we are completely in the good graces of both the IRS and the California State Franchise Tax Board.

          If you are aware of other issues that haven't popped up on our radar, please tell osi (at) opensource (dot) org so we can fix them

          • by iggymanz (596061)

            these issue were not "posted on slashdot first", the OSI was contacted repeatedly about them by concerned people over the years. yes, years.

            and not inherited "from early days", OSI was in compliance in its early years, then dropped the ball later, even to May 2009. I have proof.

            • by WebMink (258041)
              Your description does not match any of the facts available to me as a new Board member, so I suggest you contact me via e-mail: webmink (at) opensource (dot) org
            • Please send me the email addresses that contacted OSI "repeatedly ... over the years". I will check our email logs and report back here. If you don't step up with you facts, then I will accuse you of dealing it out with a large shovel. Fair enough?

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:03AM (#32336376)
    OSI is getting exactly what they pushed: open code tied to closed devices. When you fight for open as a key to business success rather than user freedom, we get Android and their closed phones, we get devices running Linux that are essentially black boxes because you can't get them to run anything else, etc.

    What OSI has pushed forward has taken hold. However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.
    • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:06AM (#32336404)

      I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

      So quick to disregard BSD advocates...

      • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:09AM (#32336448) Homepage
        If you use the BSD license you end up with OSX and (I mean this as seriously as I can say it): fuck Apple. I think Apple is a great reason to never chose the BSD license.
        • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:14AM (#32336516)

          You make the mistake of assuming that BSD advocates are not fully aware of this possibility, and are perfectly ok with it. The BSD TCP/IP stack has found it's way into just about every proprietary system since it was around too, do you think they don't realize this as well? Not everyone is a fan of copyleft and it is ignorant to assume so.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The quote in question:

            I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

            BSD leaves us with completely closed devices (OSX, i, etc.) not exactly the solution to 'half-open devices' that GPLv3 advocates are looking for.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:25AM (#32336674)
          I fail to see a problem. You make it sound like Apple doesn't give back and that they just stole the code without putting in any time, effort or money on integrating it and creating a polished product. Point of fact, Apple uses the BSD license on their code, not sure if they do for all the open source stuff, but they definitely use it.

          Additionally it means that you can use binaries if you choose to, whereas with the GPL that's been getting dicier and dicier over the years.
        • Why? Are you trying to imply they just use the code but don't contribute back?

          http://http//opensource.apple.com/ [http] begs to differ.

        • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:29AM (#32336760)

          If you use the BSD license you end up with OSX

          The most popular desktop Unix variant in the world? Oh the horrors!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            > The most popular desktop Unix variant in the world? Oh the horrors!

            Nothing visible or relevant about the platform is actually Unix.

            In the case of the more closed Apple devices, you can't even access that part of the device unless you indulge in a hack that may or may not be illegal under the DMCA.

            All the Unix-ness of MacOS does is gives Apple a shortcut and free R&D. It's like a big fat hunk of corporate welfare. Except it is being extracted directly from the masses rather than going through a gove

          • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:56PM (#32338834) Homepage

            The most popular desktop Unix variant in the world? Oh the horrors!

            Let me put this as politely as I manage: If all you care about is having your code used by as many as possible, I'm sure Microsoft would take on another unpaid intern. If you know that 99.8% of the people use your code as OS X and 0.2% use it as any of the *BSDs (given desktop market shares of 5% and 0.01% respectively), who are you really working for? Libraries and applications are a bit different, a BSD tool can run alongside a commercial one but you normally just run the one OS.

            I think there's a huge perception gap between the BSD crowd and Apple. The BSD crowd see it like "Oh yeah, we're the CORE. The engine of the car. We're like the most important part of OS X". Apple is in my impression more like "The BSDs? Yeah we got like the concrete foundation from them, the bricks and the I-beams and whatnot. But we did all the design and layout and architecture and decorating to build the things that makes people go wow. The rest is commodities and it made no sense for us to reinvent the wheel."

            That last bit I've heard as an explanation quite often. but to me that's a rather dismal prospect. Products that aren't ever going to make it on their own, that exist only deep down within some other products and that rarely get you the gratitude of anyone. Coders aren't given tasks that are already done, if there's already code to do something they'll get a different task - they don't get slack because of BSD. Customers are so detached from this process they probably don't even know OS X is based on BSD and Apple isn't going to make any PR effort to inform them. Nor would it help them since they can't change OS X anyway. Steve Jobs is probably happy for the lower way costs improve his profit margins though, so he can buy more turtlenecks.

            Yes of course it is open source, the code doesn't go away. But if it hardly sees any use in any other product but OS X, what's the point of it all? Why not just be an employee and get paid to write OS X code? Granted, there are many issues with the GPL but for better and worse it's 100% used in open source software. It's not hiding deep ine bowels of the "About" page and some innards noone will ever see.

            • Hold on there, you assume that all people care about the same things.

              For example, a girl I knew loves her BMW M3, not because it's an M3, but because it has the BMW logo on the front. It could have been a 318 for all she cared. At the same time, I think it's cool because it's a M3 with all the nice engineering tweaking that went into it that makes it special to me.

              Non-techie Mac-users will never care about what BSD is or what GPL is, or whether or not you can install an OpenSSH server on it. Advertise it an

        • Apple could have based OS X on linux (remember mklinux?) -- A linux kernel with a closed-source GUI on top. How is that any different than using a BSD kernel (which they do provide the source for) underneath?
          • Apple uses the XNU kernel--a sort of Mach/BSD hybrid, not the BSD kernel. OS X does, however, borrow a lot of userspace utilities from FreeBSD and NetBSD.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by samkass (174571)

          If you use the BSD license you end up with OSX and (I mean this as seriously as I can say it): fuck Apple. I think Apple is a great reason to never chose the BSD license.

          Yeah! Fuck Apple! Fuck WebKit and the Chrome it rode in on! Fuck LLVM and clang! Fuck GrandCentralDispatch and their attempts at bringing us into the modern world of parallelism. Fuck the dozens and dozens of projects [apple.com] that Apple has spent their money contributing to.

          Seriously, man, calm down. Apple is actually a perfect case study in

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          If you use the BSD license you end up with OSX

          And Free/NetBSD, etc. If you use a BSD-style license (or a public domain declaration, like SQLite), sure, you'll have commercial, closed derivatives. If there is sufficient community interest and the code is open, you'll also have a thriving open-source community, and often the people making closed derivatives (or in-house derivatives that aren't distributed under any license) will still commit code -- and money --back to the open projects (because they realize

        • Fuck OpenSSH/SSL, all the BSD projects, GPL OR BUST!

          And you wonder why the world doesn't understand OSI, you can't even agree among yourselves.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)
          Why? How is OS X worse than Mac OS? You would prefer 100% closed vs 100% open, and anything in between is a wussy sellout? Curse Apple for choosing an open source OS, and praise Microsoft for sticking to their proprietary principles.
        • You know the people who released their software--the ones that did the work don't care, or are even happy. Thats why they use a BSD license.

          Or do you believe that the people writing the code don't have the right to release the code as they see fit?

          When i release code under a BSD license or even public domain, its so people like Apple have the freedom to take my code, change it a bit, make money and not release the changes. I *want* to give them and others that freedom.
        • Kinda like the 4.4 BSD TCP/IP protocol stack is a perfect example to not chose GPL.

    • However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

      I disagree. I much prefer our current situation of "half-open" devices that actually exist and that I can use over the mythical fully open devices that apparently are used by the tooth fairy and santa claus.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)
        There are a lot of fully open devices. Or at least a ton more open than other electronics because you can run whatever apps you feel like on there, change the OS, and do both without jailbreaking or otherwise having to resort to other methods.

        There is the GP2x which is similar to a PSP, now the Pandora, the Nexus One, Google Dev phone, etc.
    • by sago007 (857444)

      However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

      So in the future all devices will be completly closed and prevented from ever being open?

      I would prefer to be in a complete open world. But then reading the FSF's homepage I often get the impression that if you cannot convert fully to free software then there is no point converting at all. They constantly attack any project allowing a transition from closed to open if it is not fully open. It just isn't possible right now and only gets harder with time.

      I believe that the goal is ultimately the same (fully o

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:14PM (#32337390)
        The thing is, as much as I'd really like to dismiss RMS and the rest of the FSF as a bunch of loons who don't understand how software works, I can't because they've been spot on for a lot of things. And really it seems like http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/infrastructures.png [xkcd.com] we say that their policies are unreasonable, that their predictions are outlandish but then they come true.

        Look back at "Can you trust your computer?" written by RMS in I believe 2002

        The technical idea underlying treacherous [trusted] computing is that the computer includes a digital encryption and signature device, and the keys are kept secret from you. Proprietary programs will use this device to control which other programs you can run, which documents or data you can access, and what programs you can pass them to. These programs will continually download new authorization rules through the Internet, and impose those rules automatically on your work. If you don't allow your computer to obtain the new rules periodically from the Internet, some capabilities will automatically cease to function.

        Does that not sound like it hasn't already happened? In 2002, yeah, it sounded stupid, sounded outlandish. But look at the iPhone, restrictions on even Android devices like the BackFlip, DRM in the form of "unlimited music", etc.

        And this isn't an isolated incident, look at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/essays-and-articles.html [gnu.org] and see when they were written, a lot of them, if not all of them, came true. Perhaps not in the way that it was written, but the underlying forces did it in a different way.

        I'd really, really like to say that the FSF has unworkable policies, and many times they do, but I can't help but looking at their past work and seeing how they were right on track.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          Does that not sound like it hasn't already happened? In 2002, yeah, it sounded stupid

          Uh, no, it didn't. It had already happened then; the description in the essay is exactly what trusted computing was being sold as, by its promoters, to the kinds of companies that would use it to enforce their restrictions, looked at from the consumer's point of view -- it wasn't an extrapolation, just the same description from the consumer perspective.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:13PM (#32337380)

      However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

      No, we can't. First of all, because I doubt we'll all agree that "half-open" devices are inherently evil, and second because I'm sure some of us would disagree that, even granting that "half-open" devices are evil, that the general approach in the GPL v3 approach to addressing the problem is desirable, and lastly because the GPL v3 specifically allows half-open business- (rather than consumer-) oriented devices, so even if the general approach it takes to addressing half-open devices were a desirable approach to dealing with a real problem, the GPLv3 would not, in fact, prevent half-open devices.

    • by dfghjk (711126) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:38PM (#32337684)

      "However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices."

      No, we can't.

      Open software is open software. It does not come with any promise that you have hardware that you can retask as you please.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Open software is open software. It does not come with any promise that you have hardware that you can retask as you please.

        Perhaps this is why OSI is useless and FSF useful despite the oddities of RMS, it's the same "software you can look at but not touch" all over again. If you have read the story of why RMS created the GPL it was obvious that he wanted it to fix his broken printer, not that other people from other companies could build other printers with the same driver. There's no technical difference between fixing a simple bug and retasking the hardware, the latter is a consequence of the former which was clearly part of

        • Perhaps this is why OSI is useless and FSF useful despite the oddities of RMS, it's the same "software you can look at but not touch" all over again.

          Sorry, stinking load of crap. Even when somebody takes some BSD-licensed code and does nifty magic with it under a proprietary license, the BSD-licensed code they started from remains available to you. So, no "software you can look at but not touch". If someone takes some reciprocal licensed code, and does nifty magic with it, they have to release it with th

      • by lennier (44736)

        "However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices."

        No, we can't.

        Open software is open software. It does not come with any promise that you have hardware that you can retask as you please.

        Right, and (sigh) because of the existence of this viewpoint, now I understand why Richard Stallman was always so careful to distinguish Free Software from merely Open Source.

        Freedom, in the Free Software sense, is about the positive rights of the user - it starts by asking 'what can the user do to change their system?' under the assumption that the user being able to change their system is a good and right and creative thing which adds value to everyone. Obviously, from this mindset, restricting the hardwa

    • "However, I think we can all agree now that.."

      This is Slashdot. Any sentence that begins with those words is false. With the possible exception of completing the sentence with "our coworkers suck".

      • "However, I think we can all agree now that.."

        This is Slashdot. Any sentence that begins with those words is false. With the possible exception of completing the sentence with "our coworkers suck".

        I'm unemployed you insensitive clod.

        Besides, even when I was employed, none of my coworkers offered me a blowjob.

      • "However, I think we can all agree now that.."

        This is Slashdot. Any sentence that begins with those words is false.

        I vehemently disagree.

    • OSI is getting exactly what they pushed: open code tied to closed devices.

      Ten years ago, the FSF did not care about software embedded in devices, either, even though it was a printer which got Stallman started. I'm not even sure if much has changed; to some degree, that's understandable because restrictive hardware environments can make it difficult to empower users to program.

      However, I think we can all agree now that GPL V3 was a good idea because it would prevent our current situation of half-open devices.

      With the GPLv3, the device vendor can rent the device to you, so that you can perform a service for them (like supplying power and Internet connectivity). In this case, they do not have to provide source c

    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      I think some could agree, not all. Getting open source onto mostly closed devices is not completely a negative. It has spread open source, it has given developers more choices, it has given customers more features, and it has given back many improvements to the original sources. Open source should be about sharing quality software, not pushing political views.
  • by nomadic (141991)
    The thing that always bothered me about OSI was the pomposity. They come out late in the game, years after the creation of the open source process, after Linux, Apache, etc. are all mature, and then have tried to take credit for basically everything open source since. Then have the nerve to frequently post on slashdot how horrible it is that they're not recognized for their tremendous accomplishments, and that anyone who is skeptical of OSI's claims is just completely ignorant of the history of the organi
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by ClosedSource (238333)

      Right. In contrast to the known humility of GNU, FSF and RMS.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        Right. In contrast to the known humility of GNU, FSF and RMS.

        Yet (a) they actually did start back in the olden days, and have done a tremendous amount, and (b) get called out as arrogant all the time. Arrogance is a little easier to take from someone who actually is almost as good/important/influential as they claim to be.
    • It's horrible that we're not recognized for our tremendous accomplishments. Anyone who is skeptical of our claims is just completely ignorant of the history of the organization.

      Errr, how many times do I need to post this to meet your definition of "frequently"? I wouldn't want you to be wrong in the Internet.

  • I was thinking OSI Model when I ready the title of the article....a little confusing.
  • by triffid_98 (899609) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:43PM (#32338600)
    I respectfully disagree. Oscar Goldman's organization [wikipedia.org] is still quite relevant in the fields of hostage negotiation, Bigfoot sightings and Russia oriented plot-lines.
  • Really, a license that prohibits integration of third-party code is not free software (it renders improved NOSA code non-free).
    I argue that's against freedom 3:

    The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

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