Open Source Initiative

Last updated
Open Source Initiative
FormationFebruary 1998(24 years ago) (1998-02)
Area served
Executive Director
Stefano Maffulli (September 2021 - present)
US$ 209,500 [2]
US$ 209,500 [3]

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is the steward of the Open Source Definition, the set of rules that define open source software. [4] It is a California public-benefit nonprofit corporation, with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.


The organization was founded in late February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond, [5] part of a group inspired by the Netscape Communications Corporation publishing the source code for its flagship Netscape Communicator product. Later, in August 1998, the organization added a board of directors.

Raymond was president from its founding until February 2005, followed briefly by Russ Nelson and then Michael Tiemann. In May 2012, the new board elected Simon Phipps as president [6] and in May 2015 Allison Randal was elected as president [7] when Phipps stepped down in preparation for the 2016 end of his Board term. [8] Phipps became President again in September 2017. [9] Molly de Blanc was elected [10] President in May, 2019, followed by Josh Simmons [11] in May, 2020.

The organization appointed Stefano Maffulli as its Executive Director in September 2021, [12] at the end of a process set by the Board of Directors to transform the organization. Josh Simmons is Chair of the Board.


As a campaign of sorts, "open source" was launched in 1998 by Christine Peterson, Jon "maddog" Hall, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, and others. [5] [13]

The group adopted the Open Source Definition for open-source software, based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines. They also established the Open Source Initiative (OSI) as a steward organization for the movement. However, they were unsuccessful in their attempt to secure a trademark for 'open source' to control the use of the term. [14] In 2008, in an apparent effort to reform governance of the organization, the OSI Board invited 50 individuals to join a "Charter Members" group; by 26 July 2008, 42 of the original invitees had accepted the invitations. The full membership of the Charter Members has never been publicly revealed, and the Charter Members group communicated by way of a closed-subscription mailing list, "osi-discuss", with non-public archives. [15]

In 2012, under the leadership of OSI director and then-president Simon Phipps, the OSI began transitioning towards a membership-based governance structure. The OSI initiated an Affiliate Membership program for "government-recognized non-profit charitable and not-for-profit industry associations and academic institutions anywhere in the world". [16] Subsequently, the OSI announced an Individual Membership program [17] and listed a number of Corporate Sponsors. [18]

On November 8, 2013, OSI appointed Patrick Masson as its General Manager. [19] As of August, 2020, Deb Nicholson is the Interim General Manager. [20] Under the direction of Deborah Nicholson, the interim manager, the voting and election was held with results and then halted and set for re-election due to vulnerabilities in the election process. "This week we found a vulnerability in our voting processes that was exploited and had an impact on the outcome of the recent Board Election." [21] No election results or further updates are posted as of June 2021.

In January 2020, founder Bruce Perens left OSI over controversy regarding a new license (the Cryptographic Autonomy License), which had been proposed for the OSI's approval. [22] Later, in August 2020, Perens elaborated on his concerns: "We created a tower of babel of licenses. We did not design-in license compliance, and we have a tremendous noncompliance problem that isn't getting better. We can't afford to sue our copyright infringers." [23]

Eric S. Raymond, another co-founder of the OSI, was later banned from the OSI mailing list in March 2020. [24]

In November 2020 the Board of Directors announced a search for an executive director [25] which was concluded in September 2021 with the appointment of Stefano Maffulli. At the same time, the role of President of the Board was abandoned in favor of Chair of the Board.

Relationship with the free software movement

Both the modern free software movement and the Open Source Initiative were born from a common history of Unix, Internet free software, and the hacker culture, but their basic goals and philosophy differ, the free software movement being more focused on the ethics of software, and their open source counterparts being more focused on practical benefits. The Open Source Initiative chose the term "open source," in founding member Michael Tiemann's words, to "dump the moralizing and confrontational attitude that had been associated with 'free software'" and instead promote open source ideas on "pragmatic, business-case grounds." [26]

As early as 1999, OSI co-founder Perens objected to the "schism" that was developing between supporters of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the OSI because of their disparate approaches. Perens had hoped the OSI would merely serve as an "introduction" to FSF principles for "non-hackers." [27] Richard Stallman of FSF has sharply criticized the OSI for its pragmatic focus and for ignoring what he considers the central "ethical imperative" and emphasis on "freedom" underlying free software as he defines it. [28] Nevertheless, Stallman has described his free software movement and the Open Source Initiative as separate camps within the same broad free-software community and acknowledged that despite philosophical differences, proponents of open source and free software "often work together on practical projects." [28]

On March 23, 2021, in response to Richard Stallman's reappointment to the Board of the Free Software Foundation, the OSI released a statement calling upon the FSF to "hold Stallman responsible for past behavior, remove him from the organization's leadership and work to address the harm he caused to all those he has excluded: those he considers less worthy, and those he has hurt with his words and actions." The OSI also stated that they would not participate in any events that include Stallman and "cannot collaborate with the Free Software Foundation until Stallman is removed from the organization's leadership." [29]

Board members

As of August 2021, the Open Source Initiative Board of Directors is: [30]

Past board members include: [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bruce Perens</span>

Bruce Perens is an American computer programmer and advocate in the free software movement. He created The Open Source Definition and published the first formal announcement and manifesto of open source. He co-founded the Open Source Initiative (OSI) with Eric S. Raymond. Today, he is a partner at OSS Capital.

The free software movement is a social movement with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedoms to run the software, to study the software, to modify the software, and to share copies of the software. Software which meets these requirements, The Four Essential Freedoms of Free Software, is termed free software.

The Free Software Definition written by Richard Stallman and published by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), defines free software as being software that ensures that the end users have freedom in using, studying, sharing and modifying that software. The term "free" is used in the sense of "free speech," not of "free of charge." The earliest-known publication of the definition was in the February 1986 edition of the now-discontinued GNU's Bulletin publication by the FSF. The canonical source for the document is in the philosophy section of the GNU Project website. As of April 2008, it is published in 39 languages. The FSF publishes a list of licences which meet this definition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open-source license</span> Software license allowing source code to be used, modified, and shared

Open-source licenses facilitate free and open-source software development. Intellectual property laws restrict the modification and sharing of creative works. Open-source licenses use these existing legal structures for the inverse purpose of granting freedoms that facilitate sharing and collaboration. They grant the recipient the rights to use the software, examine the source code, modify it, and distribute the modified software. Open-source licenses target computer software where source code can be necessary to create modifications. They also cover situations where there is no difference between the source code and the executable program distributed to end users. Open-source licenses can cover hardware, infrastructure, drinks, books, art, and music.

The Open Source Definition is a document published by the Open Source Initiative, to determine whether a software license can be labeled with the open-source certification mark.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open-source software</span> Software licensed to ensure source code usage rights

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. Open-source software is a prominent example of open collaboration, meaning any capable user is able to participate online in development, making the number of possible contributors indefinite. The ability to examine the code facilitates public trust in the software.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Tiemann</span> American executive, software developer, and open source proponent

Michael Tiemann is an American software developer and executive, serving as vice president of open source affairs at Red Hat, Inc., and former President of the Open Source Initiative.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">FSF Free Software Awards</span>

Free Software Foundation (FSF) grants two annual awards. Since 1998, FSF has granted the award for Advancement of Free Software and since 2005, also the Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit.

Source-available software is software released through a source code distribution model that includes arrangements where the source can be viewed, and in some cases modified, but without necessarily meeting the criteria to be called open-source. The licenses associated with the offerings range from allowing code to be viewed for reference to allowing code to be modified and redistributed for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open-source hardware</span> Hardware from the open-design movement

Open-source hardware (OSH) consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered by the open-design movement. Both free and open-source software (FOSS) and open-source hardware are created by this open-source culture movement and apply a like concept to a variety of components. It is sometimes, thus, referred to as FOSH. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it – coupling it closely to the maker movement. Hardware design, in addition to the software that drives the hardware, are all released under free/libre terms. The original sharer gains feedback and potentially improvements on the design from the FOSH community. There is now significant evidence that such sharing can drive a high return on investment for the scientific community.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free and open-source software</span> Software whose source code is available and which is permissively licensed

Free and open-source software (FOSS) is a term used to refer to groups of software consisting of both free software and open-source software where anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright licensing and the source code is usually hidden from the users.

Alternative terms for free software, such as open source, FOSS, and FLOSS, have been a controversial issue among free and open-source software users from the late 1990s onwards. These terms share almost identical licence criteria and development practices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Stallman</span> American free software activist and GNU Project founder (born 1953)

Richard Matthew Stallman, also known by his initials, rms, is an American free software movement activist and programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in such a manner that its users have the freedom to use, study, distribute, and modify that software. Software that ensures these freedoms is termed free software. Stallman launched the GNU Project, founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in October 1985, developed the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and wrote the GNU General Public License.

This comparison only covers software licenses which have a linked Wikipedia article for details and which are approved by at least one of the following expert groups: the Free Software Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, the Debian Project and the Fedora Project. For a list of licenses not specifically intended for software, see List of free-content licences.

License proliferation is the phenomenon of an abundance of already existing and the continued creation of new software licenses for software and software packages in the FOSS ecosystem. License proliferation affects the whole FOSS ecosystem negatively by the burden of increasingly complex license selection, license interaction, and license compatibility considerations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free-software license</span> License allowing software modification and redistribution

A free-software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and redistribute that software. These actions are usually prohibited by copyright law, but the rights-holder of a piece of software can remove these restrictions by accompanying the software with a software license which grants the recipient these rights. Software using such a license is free software as conferred by the copyright holder. Free-software licenses are applied to software in source code and also binary object-code form, as the copyright law recognizes both forms.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4, 1985, to support the free software movement, with the organization's preference for software being distributed under copyleft terms, such as with its own GNU General Public License. The FSF was incorporated in Boston, Massachusetts, US, where it is also based.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Simon Phipps (programmer)</span> Computer scientist and web and open source advocate

Simon Phipps is a computer scientist and web and open source advocate.

The Shared Source Initiative (SSI) is a source-available software licensing scheme launched by Microsoft in May 2001. The program includes a spectrum of technologies and licenses, and most of its source code offerings are available for download after eligibility criteria are met.

The Organization for Ethical Source (OES) is a non-profit organization founded by Coraline Ada Ehmke in December 2020, to support the ethical source movement, which promotes that "software freedom must always be in service of human freedom". The organization is dedicated to "giving technologists tools and resources to ensure that their work is being used for social good and to minimize harm". It develops tools to "promote fair, ethical, and pro-social outcomes for those who contribute to, or are affected by, open source technologies".


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