Published by the IEEE Computer Society
1520-9202/10/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE
Guest editors’ introduction
Keith W. Miller,
University of Illinois at Springfield
National Institute of Standards and Technology
imes change. In 2001, a Microsoft execu-tive publically stated that “open sourceis an intellectual property destroyer.I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and theintellectual-property business.”
Today, Microsofthas an official open source presence on the Web(www.microsoft.com/opensource), and in July2010, Jean Paoli, the General Manager for Interop-erability Strategy at Microsoft, delivered a keynoteaddress at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention.Historically, free and open source software(FOSS) pioneers, such as Richard Stallman andLinus Torvalds, were the public faces of a move-ment widely thought to be outside the mainstreamof commercial software. But now, corporate en-tities are big players in FOSS. Microsoft, IBM,Oracle, and State Farm are just a few of the “bigname” companies with serious public stakes inopen source technologies.It seems sensible, then, for
to revisit thehistory of FOSS and take a closer look at FOSStoday.
A Review of FOSS
A few of you might be old enough to remember when “free” was the standard term for software.In the 1950s and early 1960s, computer software was mainly the concern of academics and cor-porate researchers, so it was treated more likescholarly work (in the public domain) than a pro-prietary asset. Computer manufacturers focusedon selling hardware, so they threw in the soft- ware for free. Both IBM and DEC had active usergroups that shared tips and software with otherusers.In the second half of the 1960s, as softwarecosts increased for manufacturers, software waseither bundled with hardware or priced sepa-rately. Licensing agreements and copyright pro-tection became common ways to legally protectsoftware. In 1966, the UK issued what was prob-ably the first software patent.
In 1984, Richard Stallman launched the GNUproject (www.gnu.org). Stallman, who alsofounded the Free Software Foundation (FSF),has been an outspoken and controversial ad-vocate for free software. GNU’s General Pub-lic License (GPL), which has several differentversions, has been widely influential. However,GNU’s success didn’t lead to a monolithicmovement led by Stallman; rather, differentgroups have championed slightly different li-censing agreements.
Free and OpenSource Software