Open source code has allowed for the proliferation of open source software that competes with the big guns of software development, like Microsoft. Tempers run high, with the key issues focused on differing philosophies on the best business model to use and disputes over copyright, leading to lawsuits and heated online discussions. This issue of Topic in Depth provides an overview of open source software, and a selection of websites that discuss some of the pros and cons to the different approaches to software development.
Some argue that open source is the best way to improve software, because developers can share the code and discuss issues. This article from _Nature_ reviews some of those arguments (1). Slashdot.com posts this article, which offers a counter argument (2) by raising concerns about security. Security has been a key issue for Microsoft -- along with copyright -- and it posts this statement on the company website regarding its "Approach to Source Code Sharing Balances Accessibility with Responsibility" (3).
More information on copyright issues can be found on the GNU Project website (4 ). The GNU project was initiated by Richard Stallman and sponsored by the Free Software Foundation, which "supports the freedoms of speech, press, and association on the Internet, the right to use encryption software for private communication, and the right to write software unimpeded by private monopolies." The Open Source Initiative (OSI) emphasizes the management and promotion of the Open Source Definition "for the good of the community" and provides some basic information on open source software (5 ). Another online news source on open source software -- Daemon News(6 )-- posts an article that argues for other ways open source can be a learning tool in "Teaching Kids to Think for Themselves." This website provides a brief history of open source software (7), tracing the initiation of open source software to Stallman and his colleagues during "the 'hacker' culture of U.S. computer science laboratories." For more on the extent of open source software now available, see O'Reilly's list of resources (8 ).
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