OSI’s Joshua Simmons on the State of Open Source

In his keynote presentation at the recent State of the Source Summit, Joshua Simmons, President at Open Source Initiative, provided a thoughtful look at the state of open source today, acknowledging strengths and shared history and examining challenges with an eye toward conscious, collaborative improvement.

Open source has gone “from fringe to mainstream,” Simmons said, and the ecosystem has understandably undergone many changes. In this moment, he said, open source is being tested, with questions being raised about the sustainability of projects, the health and safety of communities, fair treatment of maintainers, and open source’s overall ability to weather attempts at redefinition. 

In the talk, Simmons explored various open source narratives, discussed OSI’s role, and described the organization’s plans for the future. OSI is “first and foremost a standards body for open source licensing,” and licensing is “the cornerstone on which the entire facade of modern software development rests,” he said. 

“There are a lot of competing and complementary narratives about open source,” he noted, and your narrative will, unsurprisingly, depend on your relationship to open source. 

Simmons presented three example narratives to illustrate:

  • A free software-centric narrative, in which “software freedom is a moral movement and open source is about business.”
  • An author-centric narrative, in which “maintainers are exploited and deserve more support, and maybe we should consider new licenses to ensure they get paid.”
  • A user-centric narrative, in which “few people have had the promise of user freedom realized for them.”

“It’s important to understand all these narratives because they help us make sense of the experiments we see in our ecosystem—experiments in licensing, collaboration, and in governance,” Simmons said.

Watch the complete presentation to learn more.

Joshua Simmons of OSI
Joshua Simmons of OSI presents the State of the Source 2020 keynote.