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The Open Source trademark is no more. As communicated in this press release from the Open Source Initiative (OSI), the U.S. Government was unwilling to register "Open Source" as a trademark. Seems that the term was "too descriptive." So no more trademark; anybody who wants to use the term - even Al Gore - may now do so.

Not everybody will lament the passing of this trademark. See, for example, this ZDNet article by Evan Liebovitch: "The term open source is now as free as the software it describes. Actually, it's always been free, but at least the attempt to kidnap it has failed." Indeed, the term is truly free.

But what does "Open Source" mean if anybody can apply it to anything? Not everybody was happy with all of the licenses that got the "Open Source" stamp (see, for example, Bruce Perens's editorial on the topic), but the fact remains that the OSI's control over the term was used numerous times to gain improvements in corporate source licenses. It has been a force for good, but its power is now gone.

The OSI is attempting to come back with a new "OSI Certified" certification mark. This mark, which should be defensible, will be awarded to vendors when their licenses meet the OSI's criteria. Let's hope this program works, and proves popular. There is a good chance that we will soon find ourselves buried in "open source" software that is nothing of the kind. Having a well-respected body setting some standards will help to sort out the real from the pretend, and will put pressure on vendors to come up with good (or at least better) licenses.

Control of the linuxhq.com domain has been transferred to Michael McLagan, the sometimes controversial person behind linux.org and the ill-fated Linux Standards Association. Those who have been following the issue will remember that, until recently, LinuxHQ has been maintained by Jim Pick. Jim's site was abruptly detached from the domain last month; it has found a new home at Kernelnotes.org. Since these events took place, the status of LinuxHQ has been unclear.

Meanwhile, Mr. McLagan had been looking for a way to beef up the kernel content at Linux.org. LinuxHQ thus becomes, for him, a way of adding on to his kernel coverage that brings not only content, but a massive set of links (AltaVista turns up more than 6000) and an established reader base. Picking up the site probably required little thought on his part.

The terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed; Mr. McLagan will only say "I agreed to maintain the site and not to sell it."

What will be done with LinuxHQ now? It will remain as a separate site, though closely tied to Linux.org. There will be a sharing of content that will, according to Mr. McLagan, benefit both sites. An "expansion of coverage of kernel development" is planned for LinuxHQ, with an emphasis on appealing to kernel and application developers.

Thus ends, presumably, a period of significant ugliness. It will be interesting to see where LinuxHQ goes from here, and whether it will be able to hold on to its longstanding crowd of dedicated readers.

VA Linux Systems has hired Jon "Maddog" Hall to work in its marketing group; see their press releasefor a few details. Like Red Hat, VA has, at this point, managed to hire quite a few important Linux players. This accumulation of important talent into a relatively small number of commercial hands may well be a cause for concern for many. The truth of the matter still seems to be, though, that it is a tremendously good thing that the people who have done a lot to insure the success of Linux are able to get jobs working on Linux. We wish Mr. Hall the greatest of success in his new position.

We do hope, however, that the loss of such a strong internal Linux advocate at Compaq will not adversely affect their support for the system.

The Linux Documentation Project has a new leader; it is Guylhem Aznar. Mr. Aznar is a medical student at Purpan University at Toulouse, maintainer of the UUCP, Mail, and French HOWTOs, and a former maintainer of the AfterStep window manager and the xiterm terminal emulator.

Mr. Aznar has set out on an ambitious project to greatly improve the (already great) LDP through a number of initiatives:

  • Setting up maintenance of the documentation to be as automatic as possible.

  • Improving awareness of the LDP. Many people do not even know about the HOWTOs (though how one can get by without the HOWTOs is an interesting question), much less the various books put together by the LDP.

  • Improved cooperation with the LDP translation projects.

  • More authors, and higher-quality documentation. Perhaps even a quality control group.

  • The creation of a short list of LDP-compatible licenses.
It is an ambitious set of goals which, if achieved, will make the LDP's resources available to an ever greater community of Linux users. (One assumes that LWN readers are familiar with the LDP; for those who are not, a trip to the Linux Documentation Project web site would be time well spent).

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June 17, 1999


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