Steve Jobs: an open source pioneer? You bet

Steve Jobs: an open source pioneer? You bet

Summary: Steve Jobs: an early open source pioneer? You bet. Mac OSX is based on Darwin, an open source OS made available by Apple in 2000 that incorporated code from NextStep, BSD and other free software projects, Wikipedia notes. Darwin still lives on in the form of PureDarwin and other derivatives.


One wouldn't think of Apple's Steve Jobs as an open source pioneer.

But he was.

Apple's 10-year-old Mac OS X is a closed source operating system with open source components.

It is based in part on Darwin, an open source OS originally developed by Apple in 2000 which incorporates code from Jobs' NextStep, BSD and other free software, according to Wikipedia.  The BSD code in MacOSX, for example, includes the process model, network stack, and virtual file system, the web encyclopedia also notes.

Here's how Wikipedia describes Darwin's open source nature:

"Darwin's heritage began with Next's NextSTEP operating system,  first released in 1989. After Apple bought NeXT in 1997, it announced it would base its next operating system on OPENSTEP. This was developed into Rhapsody in 1997 and the Rhapsody-based Mac OS X Server 1.0 in 1999. In 2000, Rhapsody was forked into Darwin and released as open-source software under the Apple Public Source License (APSL), and components from Darwin are present in Mac OS X today."

In July 2003, Apple released Darwin under version 2.0 of the Apple Public Source License (APSL), which the Free Software Foundation (FSF) approved as a free software license. Previous releases had taken place under an earlier version of the APSL that did not meet the FSF's definition of free software, although it met the requirements of the Open Source Definition.

OF course, most of the core attributes of Mac OSX and iOS are proprietary and no one would lump it in the open source category.

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Efforts by Apple to engage the open source community in the development of Mac OSX essentially failed.

The OpenDarwin project, for example, founded by Apple and Internet Systems Consortium in 2002 in an attempt to unify open source programmers and Apple, shut down four years later.

But Darwin the open source operating system is still kicking. There are other Darwin derivates out there, including PureDarwin, an open source OS launched in 2007 that is based on Darwin that incorporates X11, DTrace and ZFS.

As noted by Wikipedia, "parts of NeXT's software became the foundation for Mac OSX, which, together with iOS, is among the most commercially successful BSD variants in the general market."

Mac OSX is not one of those BSDs that is generally available and open source, and nor is it likely ever to be.

But Steve Jobs' early use of BSD and development of Darwin were key endorsements of the open source project concept and the open source development model that tilted public and programmers' opinion in favor of open source.

Jobs was perhaps the earliest, most influential technologist in the world to give open source a nod, and the open source community can be grateful for that.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • WebKit

    There's also WebKit (core of Safari and Chrome) which was a fork of KHTML and is (still) very much open source.
    • OpenCL is Apple's invention, too, which Jobs decided to make open sourced

    • GNU Compiler Collection also still Free Software

      @tk_77 Apple is too kind... (/sarcasm)
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

    • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet


      I think i goes in this way: you start as an "open source" and you end it as a patent troll. That's the main story for Steve Jobs. He died as a patent troll.
      Napoleon XIV
    • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

      <strong> /</strong>

      <h1><strong><a href="">Free Puzzle Games</a></strong></h1>
      <h1><strong><a href="">House Design</a></strong></h1>
  • And then, CUPS

    Which Apple now owns copyrights to and maintains.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz I guess we are all doomed then.
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @k0d3gear There's always the option to fork if it comes to that, but that would ruin the "C" in CUPS.
  • Apple should thank the OSS model

    OSS superior design helped apple become the #1.
    Now Apple has to return the favor and drop all the lawsuits against android OEMs that is open sourced too.
    And of course GPL iOS source code or adopt android for iPhone.
    The Linux Geek
    • Now Apple has to return the favor and drop all the lawsuits against android

      @The Linux Geek
      You make me laugh.

      Android stole the technology and those profiting should pay up. Apple spent boatloads developing it and deserves their due.
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @Cynical99 Android stole nothing, apple got mad when google launched android right after google helped apple making google maps for iPhone 1.. Btw no technology in iPhone is truly revolutionary, I had a touch phone several years before apple made the iPhone. Just because you made a chair and I make a better one does not justify that I should pay you. It's called competition benefit from it.
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @Cynical99 .... you are a fool. Its not rocket science. A simple fusion of what already existed before it. Or did Apple steal that technology too? Like they did with the Mac, the mouse, etc?
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @Cynical99 Define "the technology".
        Remember, there is a difference between "new technology" and "technology mainstream public was not sold on yet".
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        Except that Apple paid Xerox a million dollars in pre-IPO shares for access to their IP. Apple didn't steal from Xerox. In contrast, Google and Android vendors paid no-one anything and are now paying the price.
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @Cynical99 - lastly, both sides, other sides, every sides will "innovate" at every turn.

        Nobody in real life wants to innovate because all these companies would rather sling lawsuits at each other and Apple was notorious for their part in that as well.
      • still laughing

        @raging_monkey and others
        you still make me laugh. You have convinced yourself that Google is a wonderful company that spends billions for your benefit. Poor fools.

        Defend Google at your peril. They are the new Microsoft.
      • RE: Steve Jobs an open source pioneer? You bet

        @Cynical99 "Android stole the technology" Um you know Android is older then iOS? "Google purchased the initial developer of the software, Android Inc., in 2005"
        Also no one has shown any code that is stolen from Apple. Apple was never first in any market and you just shown yourself a ignorant fanboy :)

        The only bases of Apple anger is you don't own patents from the 1980s and 1990s. It is not that technology was stolen. Also the other side is cosmetic design which again is not stolen it is a copyright issue unless you are a German judge.
      • @mtelesha

        The android you reference wasn't anything like what you see now. It, and the phones it ran on, looked like Blackberrys (the phone to beat in those days). After iPhone came out, shazaam, all of a sudden Android, and the phones it ran on looked like iPhones.
      • Most companies 'steal'

        @Cynical99 Google's problem, given the current software patent landscape, was that their patent portfolio was too small. This link describes how Sun Microsystems dealt with patent threats from Apple and Microsoft:

        We'll soon find out whether Google's pending purchase of Motorola Mobility and purchase of IBM patents helps. But, Geez, what a chunk of cash!
        Rabid Howler Monkey