FOSS…what is it? Where does it come from?

ice covered tree branches

Icestorm – December 2013

Let’s get back to what I mentioned in our very first post: FOSS.

As said before it stands for free and open source software. And I am not going to talk here about the different licensing systems and how they refer to FOSS. I know there are a lot of different licenses in use, even for software which you are free to use, and often free to use for your own private, public or even commercial purposes. Examples are GPL2, GPL3, MIT, Apache, Mozilla…

The software may be written by a community of people who spend their time and efforts freely on a piece or system of software they are passionate about. Sometimes these communities are supported by commercial organizations. In which case the commercial organization may derive publicity, shared software in its commercial offerings or service and support contracts from it.

But it may also be the property of a commercial organization and written by their employees or bought by acquiring a company, which developed it or bought it or by buying out a community project . Examples of these are two IDEs (Integrated Development Environment): NetBeans (formerly owned by Sun, now by Oracle) and Eclipse (IBM) and the MySQL database (Sun, Oracle).

Sometimes when a piece of software moves from the community to a privately owned status, people loose confidence in the future of the product, but being open source, the original community group or a newly developing one may fork the software and further improve it and expand it. That is what happened with OpenOffice, which led to LibreOffice (office suites). MariaDB is considered the alternative to MySQL.

For us, developers, it does not necessarily matter where it comes from or where it is going. Somehow there always have sprouted up enough free alternatives, when needed. We have never been caught out by a file format which was no longer supported nor by not having access to files which are in proprietary formats.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014

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