OSI announces new initiatives and seeks your input

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OSI is changing, and you can help! I spoke at FOSDEM in Brussels on Saturday on behalf of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), where I serve as a director. My noon keynote covered a little of the rationale behind OSI and a quick synopsis of its last decade from my own perspective and then announcements on OSI's behalf about the work we’re doing to make OSI strong and relevant for a new decade.

Time for change

For the last three years, the OSI Board has been aware of a need for change. Its mission needs a renewed expression. We decided the best way to achieve this was to switch from a board-only organization focused largely on licensing to a member-led organization with an elected board of facilitators. We discovered this was hard to invent and last year eventually settled on the approach of incremental transformation. The first step of that transformation is now real. OSI now has the core of an Affiliate membership, with delegates from as many open source communities as are willing to participate. The Board has invited an initial set of Affiliates to join and collectively devise the new OSI.

What will that new OSI do? It will naturally continue stewardship of the Open Source Definition and the canonical list of approved licenses. But it will now also embrace the other parts of its mission:

  • Build bridges between parts of the community, over which greater collaboration on open source can occur
  • Provide a venue for that united community to speak with a unified voice when issues arise that affect us all, such as the ACTA treaty or the CPTN patent issue last year.
  • Promote the understanding of open source through shared academic and advocacy activities.


I made three important announcements which initiate that embrace:

  • OSI welcomes twelve non-profit communities as the initial Affiliates for OSI (see picture above). They will work with the Board to devise the governance and structures of the new OSI. OSI invites all non-profit communities committed to increasing software freedom to become an OSI Affiliate. Contact the Board (osi [at] opensource.org) to explore how to join. In the future, we hope to broaden the criteria for Affiliates to allow non-incorporated community entities to affiliate too.
  • We will be introducing a way for you to join OSI personally. Please take our survey so we know what you want OSI membership to include.
  • We are hosting a new project to create a “Body of Knowledge” to support academic curriculum. You could join this new FLOSSBOK initiative and contribute to a central resource for educators globally.

These are just the first steps; we’ve still a long way to go. Now we have a body of Affiliates on board, I hope both that they will accelerate the Board’s progress towards change and that they will self-organise as obvious opportunities are identified. I hope we can use an "open source" approach to create a new OSI for the new decade.

Simon Phipps (smiling)
Computer industry and open source veteran Simon Phipps started Public Software, a European host for open source projects, and volunteers as President at OSI and a director at The Document Foundation. His posts are sponsored by Patreon patrons - become one if you'd like to see more!


I would like OSI to lobby governments around the world to abolish software patents.

Steve Stites

That's exactly the sort of activity I'm hoping the new Membership approach will encourage. Right now OSI is just 10 people, but with a global membership it will become possible for projects to form to tackle campaigns like this.

I think the OSI needs to take back its original motivation towards avoiding ethical discussion, by including it in its Definition and openly fighting for the user's freedom. Only that way can the Open Source and Free Software movements collaborate.

To me, the problem with the OSD compared to the FSD is that it tells what an Open Source program is, but it does not explain <em>why</em> such a thing is needed in the first place. Also, focusing on price right from the beginning of the Definition cheapens the whole concept.

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