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Open Source Initiative Turns 20

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Friday, Feb. 2, and the global non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and adoption of open source software is gonna par-tay. By which I mean, the OSI has scheduled activities around the world this year to commemorate the event. (I'm hoping there will be snacks.)

Current plans include celebrations coordinated with the leading open source conferences, as well as stand-alone community-led events, the organization announced this week. As of this writing, those events include: All Things Open, Campus Party Brasil, FOSDEM, FOSSASIA Summit, Linux.conf.au, LinuxFest Northwest, Open Apereo, Open Camps, OSCON, Paris Open Source Summit and SCALE16x. In addition to official events, the OSI is also supporting volunteer organizers who want to host local, community-led celebrations in their own cities.

The organization is also inviting members of the open source community to share their stories. They're looking for personal anecdotes that "highlight the significant accomplishments and contributions that have made open source software a valued asset and community for your organization." Some are already posted. The OSI's anniversary Web site will also provide an opportunity for supporters to share events, videos, interviews, articles, timelines, and social media.

Also, as part of the celebration, the OSI is launching OpenSource.Net, which will serve both as a community of practice and a mentorship program. "The goal is to further promote adoption of open source software over the next twenty years as issues shift from open source's viability/value to issues around implementation and authentic participation," the Web site reads.

I received an e-mail from the OSI about this anniversary this week, and along with it, a little history lesson. I learned, for example, that the term "open source software" was coined at a strategy session held on Feb. 3, 1998, in Palo Alto, California. I looked around the Web and found several references to this moment in history, so it might very well be true. The OSI was founded "as a general educational and advocacy organization to raise awareness and adoption for the superiority of an open development process" that same month, the OSI stated. Shortly thereafter, the group set about drafting the Open Source Definition (OSD), which is considered by many a gold standard of open source licensing.

It's easy to forget that there were powerful forces arrayed against the open source movement back in the day. The OSI's initial mission was to counter "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" (FUD) generated by the shrink-wrap absolutists. But what started with Linux, Sendmail, Perl, Python, and Apache, and eventually, Java, has now won the imprimatur of, well, just about everybody. I was among the startled reporters who watched as Microsoft's then newish CEO, Satya Nadella, declared "Microsoft loves Linux!"

So let me say, happy birthday OSI. Save me a piece of cake.

Posted by John K. Waters on January 30, 2018