What's in a name?

By Joe Klemmer <joe@webtrek.com>

Abstract: How the Open Source, Software Libre and Free Software communities can unite

There are many aspects of what is sometimes called the FLOSS community. FLOSS stands for Free/Libre/Open Source Software. It's a very unwieldy name. The reason for this monstrosity is that there are different factions or groups in this community with different goals and ideals. These different perspectives are one of the strengths of the community but they also cause much confusion, both inside the community and outside. There have been some suggestions for an alternative name, a name that will embody the spirit of the community without stepping on the concerns of the different groups. We've had some fairly good names and some really, let's say "cumbersome", ones but none of them have really taken hold so far. Part of the reason for this is that none of the alternate names has really been able to fit every part of the community. The best suggestions have been those which focus on the licensing aspects of the different software. People outside the community have a basic understanding of the concepts "License" and “Open”. And emphasizing the licensing aspects of the software would go a long way toward dispelling the FUD that's been used by The SCO Group, Microsoft and others to portray the community as anti-License and anti-IP.

A few weeks ago, during a discussion of this very topic, a name popped into my head: Open License. This could be used as an umbrella name to gather together all the different licenses being used. For example, when talking about software, you could say, “FreeBSD is an Open Licensed OS released under the BSD license” or “Apache is an Open Licensed web server released under the GPL license”.” This would work for any of the licenses and software out there, be they GPL, LGPL, MIT, BSD or the plethora of others.. Whatever the licensing scheme, if it could be classified as FLOSS it can be classified as Open Licensed. Plus the Open License moniker can also be easily extended to licenses that pertain to documents and file formats. Anything that can be licensed could, conceivably, fit under the Open Licensed banner. Using this label will promote the continuation of, and development with, the various licensing options available to the community while giving the outside world a better understanding and better focus on what the community has to offer.

Uniting under the Open License flag will give us the best of both worlds. We will have one focul point for the users, businesses and media to see yet still allow us to keep the freedom and diversity that is the heart and soul of the commiunity.