A Simple Definition of “Open”

I wrote this into an internal FAQ today:

Q: What does “open” really mean?

A: “Open” is used in a variety of ways. An “open” API is an interface that uses standard protocols, tools and models and that can be written to by customers and third-party developers. An API is not, by itself, “open source”. Open source describes a development model in which anyone at all is free to download, improve upon and, with the agreement of the developer community, contribute code to a particular project. It is common to use open source components, often from many different projects, as building blocks of a proprietary piece of commercial software. Increasingly, there are open source projects, including OpenStack and OpenDaylight, which seek to deliver a complete and wholly open solution.

I like it, but given how freighted the whole topic is, it seems rather daringly simple and straightforward. So, dear readers, what nuances, caveats and gotchas am I missing?

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One comment on “A Simple Definition of “Open”

  1. I’ve tried to explain the idea as the boundary between what you can tinker with and what is inside a black box that you can’t see inside of. In all systems, there is a boundary between what is open to you to tinker with and what you can’t touch. I like this description since it suggests a “user/buyer” makes a choice about what level of involvment (and knowledge) they need for interaction. It defuses the idea that “open” is good and “closed” is bad per se. Choosing where you want the dividing line to be is the important thing to consider.

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