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According to the Wikipedia article on open-source, the philosophy of sharing code has been used in projects since the early computer days (mostly through Universities sharing code). However, I'm interested to know what (and when) was the first commercial open-source software (successfull or not)?

If there's any confusion on commercial, I define it as thus: "Having profit as a chief aim".

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MySQL was likely the first that set a reference on how to monetize OSS, with their money versus time approach –  gnat Jun 8 '12 at 6:54
@gnat: I doubt that MySQL were the first. They might be the first ones with high-ish public visibility. I can think of at least RedHat that predate them. And there are probably much earlier examples. –  Joachim Sauer Jun 8 '12 at 7:03
@JoachimSauer good catch - as far as I can see, RH beats MySQL in terms of timing ('93 vs '95). And per my recollection, they were also first to set a reference - though it's hard to tell which project had better media coverage back then –  gnat Jun 8 '12 at 7:26
@gnat: at the time RH had much larger visibility to me in IT press coverage, because each year people were constantly wondering whether that year was the year that linux was going to conquer the desktop from microsoft, and RH was the most likely player to do that. –  Joeri Sebrechts Jun 8 '12 at 7:35

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In the good old days of Apple II and Commodore 64 and many others and before IBM PC, there were magazines which published source code of BASIC programs to be typed and run on these early computers. Customers paid the magazine and progammers got paid by the line of code.

I think this qualifies as commercial open source software, though I would not be so sure that this is the first example.

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Was there any license information attached to the source code? If not, then it doesn't really qualify as open source. –  Joachim Sauer Jun 8 '12 at 7:47
I don't rembember the details but I am mostly certain that programmers who sent their code had to agree on specific terms of publication and customers had to agree on specific terms of use. –  mouviciel Jun 8 '12 at 7:57
Yes, but did those "specific terms" comply with the FSD and the OSD? –  Jörg W Mittag Jun 8 '12 at 9:01
@JörgWMittag - It was thirty years ago. Any resemblance to current standards is purely coincidental. –  mouviciel Jun 8 '12 at 11:04
Yes, but that's what open source means. Personally, I am too young to have been a member of that particular scene, but I did start with the Amiga, where very similar distribution channels were equally commonplace. And those were definitely not open source. They didn't allow re-distribution. They didn't allow modification. They didn't allow any of the things in the FSD or OSD. They were proprietary software, just distributed on paper instead of on floppy disks. –  Jörg W Mittag Jun 8 '12 at 11:36

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