[common; also adj. open-source] Term coined in March 1998 following the
Mozilla release to describe software distributed in source under licenses
guaranteeing anybody rights to freely use, modify, and redistribute, the
code. The intent was to be able to sell the hackers' ways of doing software
to industry and the mainstream by avoiding the negative connotations (to
suits) of the term ?free software?. For discussion of the follow-on
tactics and their consequences, see the Open Source Initiative site.
Five years after this term was invented, in 2003, it is worth noting the
huge shift in assumptions it helped bring about, if only because the hacker
culture's collective memory of what went before is in some ways blurring.
Hackers have so completely refocused themselves around the idea and ideal
of open source that we are beginning to forget that we used to do most of
our work in closed-source environments. Until the late 1990s open source
was a sporadic exception that usually had to live on top of a closed-source
operating system and alongside closed-source tools; entire open-source
environments like Linux and the *BSD systems didn't even exist in a
usable form until around 1993 and weren't taken very seriously by anyone
but a pioneering few until about five years later.
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (30 December 2018):