This is a buzzphrase of the computer software world, one that, if you believe all the hype, is making Microsoft quake and promises a new era of ease and contentment. The concept is that computer software firms should make their products available in the normal executable form, but should also publish the source code, the text files from which the applications are compiled. This permits users to inspect the code, perhaps to find and fix bugs or check its compatibility with other software, and also to modify it to meet their specific needs. There’s nothing new about making source code available — mainframe computer firms have commonly done so, and there is a similar tradition in the freeware field. But now more producers of commercial software are toying with the idea and free open source software is gaining a new respectability. The first to gain much public notice was Netscape, which in 1998 made available the source code of the newest version of its browser. One major force in open source software has been the rise in interest in an alternative to the UNIX operating system called LINUX, which it is reported some companies are considering as an alternative to Windows NT.
IBM is contributing to the momentum of the “open source software” movement by freely distributing original (“source”) code to a new e-mail program called Secure Mailer which, like products such as Sendmail, Q Mail, and Microsoft Exchange, stores and forwards e-mail messages with a high degree of security.
Edupage, Dec. 1998
The open source crusade moved into new territory when real-time specialist Cygnus promised to support the open source operating system eCos, claiming the OS could rival Windows CE in the same way that Linux threatens NT.
Computing, Jan. 1999