If you think about the title of this post I wonder what might be the first thing that comes to your mind. Perhaps you think of an antonym – closed, or maybe you think of an action taken as with a door or window. Perhaps you think of someone being an open book and what that entails. There are any number of proper definitions of the word open. If you are anything like me (or you live in the same circle as me) then you’ll more than likely think of the same definition as I do – open as in open source. But let’s look at a few of the alternate definitions and then seek to apply them to open source.
1. Open as opposed to closed.
When we look at open in terms of being the opposite of closed there are several things to consider. First, something that’s closed is usually hidden, restricted, or kept back. Being open therefore is the opposite of each of those, easily found, unrestricted, put in front. This openness is easy to recognize and can quickly be spotted by anyone looking. Open is a concept familiar to all, regardless of language or translation.
2. Open as a door or window, a verb.
The verb form is the second way of looking at the word open. Open is an active verb which demonstrates a proactive approach to something. When you open something you give it the properties listed in the first definition above. You take something previously closed and you make it open.
3. Open as in a book.
This definition for open comes from a popular saying, for example, he read me like an open book. This use of the word open implies a sense of transparency and easy to understand nature. Similar to the first definition above when something is open the result is transparent. Easy to read, easy to follow, and most of all open. Open to be read by everyone. This final definition lends itself well to the definition of open source I personally enjoy the most.
4. Open as in open source.
Open as in open source. This is the definition of open that I tend to use on almost a daily basis. Open source often refers to the concept of source code being available, transparent, and free to review. This open source code is open (as in the opposite of closed), it’s an action that is done proactively by the communities which surround these projects and it’s open as in transparent (like a book). There’s something exciting about open source and the thrill of contributing to something amazing.
Each of these are valid definitions and each carry a unique meaning. I trust this post has encouraged you to think more closely about the true meaning of open source and how each of these definitions can legitimately be applied to the concept of open source as we know it.
We live in a world being eaten by software. Let’s make sure that software is open; in every sense of the word.