[Linux-aus] Open source: time for a name change?

Dan Shearer dan at shearer.org
Tue Aug 12 17:46:21 UTC 2003

On Tue, Aug 12, 2003 at 06:49:04PM +1000, Pia Smith wrote:
> On Thu, 2003-08-07 at 15:41, Dan Shearer wrote:
> > On Thu, Aug 07, 2003 at 11:34:10AM +0930, Greg 'groggy' Lehey wrote:
> > > On Wednesday,  6 August 2003 at 16:09:17 +0930, Dan Shearer wrote:
> > > > On Wed, Aug 06, 2003 at 03:14:15PM +1000, John Knight wrote:
> > > >> Layman's terms, what about 'Open Software'? Only a
> > > >> slight change, but it might desribe it better.
> > > >
> > > > Until a person reaches that point, what better word do we currently
> > > > have than "Linux" or "Linux-style" to describe Open Source, from
> > > > OpenBSD through to Cygwin? Greg, you started this thread -- can you
> > > > improve on this?
> > > 
> > > Well, my argument was for a descriptive term.  "Free software" fits
> > > that bill.  "Linux" (or "BSD", for that matter, before you accuse me
> > > of being partisan :-) don't.
> So far as random terms that the general person doesn't understand,
> neither "Free Software" nor "Open Source" are easy to understand clear
> cut concepts from their names. Once people understand them, its all well
> and good and they make a choice. The danger in choosing "Free Software"
> is that there is an automatic (and in my opinion negative) reaction to
> the word "free" that is misleading. The reasons are not the problem, but
> we can't afford having this initial misunderstanding. Having a term such
> as Open Source that means _nothing_ to the average person before you
> explain it, is much better. I like Open Source and seeing it and Linux
> have become buzzwords that are attracting interest why should we bother
> changing them and confusing the average layman who really doesn't care
> anyway.

I think you are overlooking something here, and on reflection this might
be part of Greg's original point: "Open Source" might not mean anything
to the average layman, but to the average person who has to purchase IT
(even with no technical skills at all) the word Open has been completely
hijacked already. Open is a buzzword widely used to mean "good" in all
sorts of ways including open standards, and many things are called open
standards that are not open by any understanding of the word that you or
I are likely to have. A government purchasing officer has seen the word
Open used by just about every computing company there is, especially

Which means that, in some golden future, there might be a term that is
none of the common options and if not a completly accurate description
(which is what Greg was seeking to open debate on) at least has no
historic baggage. Aurgshjaksda, perhaps.

I'm just pessimistic that such a thing is possible in the near term
without risking losing the audience entirely. An unprecedented number of
people are tuned in right now thanks to a coincidence of influences
around the world. People with business interests based on this stuff
aren't looking for it to change now.

Dan Shearer
dan at shearer.org

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