Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've just joined the Open Source Initiative (OSI) board.

Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the Open Source Definition for the good of the community, specifically through the OSI Certified Open Source Software certification mark and program. You can read about successful software products that have these properties, and about our certification mark and program, which allow you to be confident that software really is "Open Source." We also make copies of approved open source licenses here.

The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.

We in the open source community have learned that this rapid evolutionary process produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see the source and everybody else must blindly use an opaque block of bits.

Open Source Initiative exists to make this case to the commercial world.

Open source software is an idea whose time has finally come. For twenty years it has been building momentum in the technical cultures that built the Internet and the World Wide Web. Now it's breaking out into the commercial world, and that's changing all the rules. Are you ready?

It's an important time for Open Source with many governments and large organizations switching or seriously considering switching to Open Source. The people at OSI are dedicated to making Open Source successful more broadly and I'm honored and excited to be working with them for this important cause.


Hmm, I must say that I am happy to see an ever increasing number of individuals and companies believe in the opensource community and it's software. Opensource is just as good for stimulating learning as it is for stimulating more efficient software development. I love it and just a couple of days ago started my very own opensource project on sourceforge. :)


Congratulations! Not that I always agree with you but I admire that you are being consistent ;-)

Thanks IP. Yes. If I am wrong, I will have been consistently wrong.

I sat next to someone from the FBI on the plane and we talked about privacy. It was an interestingly mutually respecting disagreement. I always find it very interesting to have discussions with intelligent people who I disagree with... as long and they don't try to "win". ;-)

The internet has enabled more open source projects to find contributors distributed all over the world. But it's also allowed companies like Google to make modifications to open source software (like Linux) and not share them with the rest of the world while profiting hugely from it. In other words, if you can find a way to obfuscate your code changes in such a way that others cannot see them, then you don't have to redistribute them. Still, the OSI has it's head stuck in the past and fails to fight to redistribute these changes. Will it or will we be stuck with PR geniuses who feign support for open source, profit off of it, and fail to give back?

Also, isn't it a conflict of interest to have a financier/officer of several companies whose products do not qualify under the open source definition ( sit on the board?

anon: I think the importance of thinking about and educating people about various licensing options is very important. There are a spectrum of different licenses that favor different types of development. Some are more "commercial" and others are more supportive of redistribution of changes. I am still a newbie to all of the details of Open Source licensing and development, but I am working with Japanese municipal governments, for example, who want to fund Open Source, but are having a difficult time understanding exactly which license is the best for them. I think that the FSF has a very important role in taking a hard line on Free Software and I believe that this is an important position. However, I think that there are also some less strict licenses which may be adopted where GPL would not.

I don't think there is a conflict of interest. I am hoping that my role in OSI will help me help the various organizations I work with understand Open Source better. I think that my experience in working with companies which are not Open Source houses will contribute to my ability to provide insight on how to recruit more participants.

I don't think that the mission is simply black and white. It's not only about getting companies to redistribute their changes. It's about convincing more and more people that Open Source is not a "threat" and that it makes sense at a variety of levels. The mission will require gaining the trust and ear of a great variety of people around the world and earning their support. I think this is why OSI opted to expand the board through increased diversity.

One short term project for me is to help Six Apart think about how it is going to help support Open Source and Free Software through Live Journal which is currently GPL I believe.