Lasswell, an American political communication scholar, proposed the 5W communication model, which, through the continuous application and development of later generations, has formed a set of gradually mature “5W1H” system, namely: To the selected project, process or operation, should be from the reason (Why Why), object (What What), place (Where Where), time (When When), personnel (Who Who), method (How) and other six aspects of the question for thinking.

This series of articles will cover open source in the 5W1H framework. This time, talk about Who/When/Where of open source — Who “invented” open source, When and Where?

A letter from Microsoft

Since the emergence of the first computer in the last century, the computer industry has been based on the hardware-based business model, that is, hardware sales are the main source of income, and the attached software is free of charge and attached with source code, which is convenient for debugging and modification by professionals. Although software copyright is now regarded as commonplace, the law at that time did not give adequate protection to this new phenomenon. Later, with the popularity of personal computers, the demand for software increased, and a number of companies specialized in developing general-purpose software, such as software companies need to charge for software to make a profit. But charging for software is clearly contradictory to providing the source code, because as long as the source code is still available, there is nothing to stop users or competitors from copying or rewriting the software code.

On February 3, 1976, Bill Gates published his famous Open Letter to Hobbyists, in which he explicitly argued that software should have “CopyRight.” This open letter laid the theoretical foundation for the “CopyRight” of software products and helped make proprietary software the mainstream of the software industry. The idea of “Copy Right” inevitably led to the complete closure of the source code.

Objectively speaking, Bill Gates’s “Copy Right” concept and the rise of proprietary software have contributed to the prosperity of the software industry. However, the monopoly of Microsoft and other proprietary software manufacturers on the software market has aroused the strong dissatisfaction of users and the majority of software developers, and the movement against the concept of proprietary software has arisen. Open source software is an important part of this movement. The first private Software Movement to emerge was the Free Software Movement, which was the forerunner of the open source Software Movement.

Free Software Movement

Some people, most notably Richard Stallman, who started the Free Software movement, are uncomfortable or unhappy with the move from free software to paid software and no longer providing source code. Richard was working as a programmer in the AI lab at MIT in the 1970s. The source code for Xerox’s printers was no longer available, and Richard could not fix the printer problems by modifying the code as he had before; Richard provided the common code for the Lisp compiler to commercial companies, but the company refused to share the expanded and improved code. These two events prompted Richard to resign and devote himself to the free software movement.

In 1983, Richard began to advocate for the free software movement. In 1985, Stallman and others created the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Stallman proposed the idea of “Copy Left” (Copy Right) as a counter to the idea of “Copy Right”, which was expressed in the form of the GPL (General Pubic License). Free software should be software that has four freedoms:

The freedom to run the Software for any purpose; Freedom to study how the software works and improve it to suit your own needs; The freedom to republish to help your neighbors; There are improvement procedures and the freedom to publish improvements (and often revisions) to advance the interests of the community as a whole.

By 1991, the Free Software Foundation had developed most of the components of the GNU operating system (such as the compiler, editor, user interface, etc.), but still had not completed the kernel that was the core of the operating system, the GNU Hurd.

The task of completing the kernel of the operating system was led by Linus Torvalds, a 21-year-old Finnish university student. For personal interest and testing purposes, Linus wrote version 0.01 of the Linux kernel in September 1991, which didn’t even run yet. A month later, however, he had version 0.02, which was already running various GNU components (so Linux is often referred to as GNU Linux). After version 0.02, programmers from all over the world joined in the development of the Linux kernel, making it rapidly improved. When version 0.12 was released in February 1992, Linus changed the license of the Linux kernel to GPL version 2, where it has remained to this day. In March 1994, the Linux kernel version 1.00 was completed.

It was the advent of Linux that gave the free software movement its own operating system to rival Microsoft’s Windows. The free software movement has won its first battle. However, the free software movement’s pursuit of freedom, after all, is incompatible with the real commercial atmosphere, with too idealistic color. This anti-business creed has alienated some people who are also opposed to proprietary software. It was in this context that some of the original free software activists began to try to connect the ideal of free software with the real business atmosphere.

Open source software

In February 1998, Richard Stallman, Eric Raymond and others established an organization called Open Source Initiative (OSI) in California, USA, with the purpose of promoting Open Source software. In order to reduce the ideological gap, and the word “Free” caused by the misunderstanding of Free software. OSI decided to drop the word “free” from “free Software,” use “Open Source Software” as the common name, and created its own definition of Open Source, as well as its own set of licenses. According to the OSPA standard, open source software can be licensed under a permissive, non-copyleft license, which allows code derived from the code under the license to be closed.

In a nutshell, open source software is software whose source code is open and can be copied freely. The open source movement’s philosophy is more about solving practical problems, capturing both the pain points of proprietary software and its integration with commerce.