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About the site name: part 2

Open source, open software, open systems. Similar, but far from identical. Of course, the word "open" conveys a meaning that makes "open software trends" quite different from "software trends". The latter covers a vast range of topics, from the offerings of large vendors of proprietary software, such as Microsoft or Oracle, to the emergence and acceptance (or rejection) of various business and technical issues around software definition, design, development, and distribution, not to mention startups and the entire global software industry. While there's a lot that I could (and someday may) say about these topics, that list is better suited to the trade press, such as Computerworld and the broad industry analysts, such as Gartner Group and Forrester.

Adding "open" narrows the scope considerably, and focuses attention on a particularly interesting quality of software, one that cuts across industry and research, with both business and scientific aspects. What exactly does it mean when someone says that a system or software component is open? Are there different types of openness? (Yes.)

While "software trends" seemed too broad, "open source trends" seemed too narrow. Open source is just one point on a continuum from "free software", in the Free Software Foundation's meaning of that term, to closed source or proprietary software. Open source development and use are the central themes of numerous conferences, publications, web sites, blogs, and more. For me, open source is an important issue in the software ecosystem, but not the only one. I think that it's also important to see how open source software interoperates with closed systems, and how people develop and use open standards, allowing interoperability even if some or all of the components are closed. Most end users are not interested in whether a particular piece of software is open or closed -- they simply are looking for an economical solution for their problem. Furthermore, many of today's most widely used applications are web-based, delivered as a service, not as packaged software. In those cases, the developers may have used open source software as part of their solution, but that is typically invisible to the end user of that application.

All of these factors led me to prefer "open software trends" over "open source trends". In addition, I wanted to avoid the open source wars. Some people view "open source" as an absolute, where software either meets the official OSI definition of open source, or does not. I sometimes share that perspective, particularly when faced with misleading or inaccurate claims, but I look at open source in a broader context. My everyday machine is a Mac, though I also have an Ubuntu machine, and yet another that runs Windows XP. Personally, I try to find the best tool that is available for any task that I want to accomplish. All things being equal, I'll tend to favor the more open solution in any given situation, but you can also find me using Photoshop. I'll try to reflect that pragmatic view here.

I also thought about "open systems trends", especially since I have a longstanding interest in mobile computing. There's a definite trend toward openness in modern mobile devices, but the whole area is still dominated by proprietary systems. The emerging "open" mobile systems are still not very open, and have a long way to go in building up communities and creating a complete open infrastructure. Deep down, though, I'm focused on software development and use, and look at systems from a software perspective.

So "open software trends" it is.