Open Source

In general, ‘open source’ refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software. With the rise of the Internet providing access to diverse production models, communication paths, and interactive communities, Open Source has gone from strength to strength. There is, however, an ongoing and passionate debate about the use of the term ‘open source’ as opposed to that of ‘free software’ - see below. The debate extends into the ideology behind both ‘movements’, which put crudely currently links ‘free software’ with concerns about free speech and empowerment and ‘open source’ with concerns about itself as a radical development paradigm.

Source code is any collection of statements or declarations written in some human-readable computer programming language. Source code allows the programmer to communicate with the computer using a reserved number of instructions, rather than having to communicate using binary data, a series of 0 and 1’s.

In commercial or proprietary software the computer software is the legal property of one party and the source code is hidden and protected. The terms of use for ‘users’ is defined by contracts or licensing agreements.

For the full and official definition of the term Open Source go to the Open Source Initiative

The Cathedral and the Bazaar
by Eric Raymond

‘Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution’
Edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman, Mark Stone
Published by O’Reilly, 1999, ISBN 1-56592-582-3
Published online at

‘Rebel Code - Linux and the Open Source Revolution’
Glyn Moody 2001
Published by Penguin Press, ISBN 0-713-99520-3

Free Software

The first formal definition of free software was published by Free Software Foundation in February 1986 written by Richard Stallman, it is still maintained today and states that software is free software if people who receive a copy of the software have the following four freedoms:

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study and modify the program.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to copy the program so you can help your neighbor.
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

Freedoms 1 and 3 require source code to be available because studying and modifying software without its source code is highly impractical.

Free Software Foundation

‘Free Software Free Society: selected essays of Richard M. Stallman’
Edited by Joshua Gay
Published by GNU Press, ISBN: 1-882114-98-1

‘Processing’ is an open source programming language for the visual arts, useful however not fast enough for real-time performance.

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists
by Casey Reas and Ben Fry
Published by MIT Press 2007 ISBN 10: 0262182629

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