[Air-l] where did "open source" come from?

Barry Wellman wellman at chass.utoronto.ca
Sun Sep 10 13:07:52 PDT 2006

Probably all of us on these lists are familiar with "open source" as a
term applied to software.

I was surprised recently at a conference (in Washington DC, of course) to
learn that the CIA manages an "open source" section -- using the term in a
much different way to refer to keeping an eye on publicly-available
information (newspapers, TV, etc.). Wikipedia suggests that the
intelligence world even has prior use -- dating back at least to a 1992
conference in Washington. By contrast, "The "open source" label came out
of a strategy session[3] held at Palo Alto in reaction to Netscape's
January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator."
Followed by Tim O'Reilly's "Open Source Summit" in April 1998.

A friend thinks that the term "open source" may predate 1992, and was
originally used in the business world. Similar to the CIA, it referred to
making use of publicly available business intelligence.

Fascinating how the same term could mean such different things in the
computer developer and the intelligence world.


  Barry Wellman         Professor of Sociology        NetLab Director
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