Tony Wasserman’s thoughts on joining the OSI Board

As a new member of the Board (as of 1 April), I thought that it would be useful to explain why I wanted to join the OSI Board and what I hope to achieve during my term. As you can see from my bio (on the Board member page), I’ve been involved with software, both proprietary and open source, for my entire career, both in industry and in the research community.

It’s fair to say that I am a strong supporter of open source software (OSS), but I also recognize the value of many proprietary software products, some of which are installed on my MacBook Pro. I have also closely followed the commercial development of open source software, and am currently doing a research study comparing proprietary and open source software businesses.

The OSS ecosystem has changed drastically since the OSI was formed. Ten, even five, years ago, there was little explicit commercial or government adoption of open source software. Just as some people and organizations strongly advocated the use of OSS, others raised concerns that limited adoption. Today, the situation is very different. We’re quickly moving past the “religious” arguments for OSS to a situation where OSS is considered alongside proprietary alternatives. Not only has OSS matured in quality in support, but many government and corporate IT decision-makers have shifted their focus to finding the software that best meets their needs.

As I talk to organizations that have relied primarily on proprietary solutions, it’s often easiest to get them to try one or two open source products in a non-critical setting. As they do so, they are discovering the high quality and the cost advantages of OSS. In addition, startups and small businesses are building their IT infrastructures on open source software, often on hosted servers or in the cloud. These organizations, as well as many of the world’s largest corporations, are running business-critical applications on OSS, and thus are placing increased demands for service and support for this OSS software. There’s a huge opportunity for OSS experts to provide these services and to educate people about OSS and specific products.

Personally, I’m hoping that the OSI can be an important contributor to this ongoing growth and acceptance of OSS. OSI has been a leader in maintaining the Open Source Definition and in approving Open Source licenses. But the mission of the OSI (on our home page) is “to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open-source community”.

The OSI mission is at the heart of my longstanding interest in OSS. I’d like to see us build a stronger community among the thousands of people who visit the OSI website every day. I’m already starting to work on educational programs aimed at the various audiences for OSS. I’m looking forward to my term on the OSI Board and hope that you will let me know your ideas.