Open Source Software Is Commercial


Posted: March 11, 2016 | By: Dr. David A. Wheeler


It’s time to end the nonsense.  OSS is practically always commercial, which means that there are two major types of commercial software: proprietary software and OSS.  Terms like “proprietary software” or “closed source” are plausible antonyms of OSS, but “commercial” is absurd as an antonym, and phrases like “commercial or OSS” make no sense.

This has real-world implications.  In particular, government acquisitions (including work performed by contractors) must include OSS in their market research and must carefully consider OSS candidates.


  • [Corbet2010] Corbet, et al.  December 2010. “Linux Kernel Development”
  • [DoD2009] DoD CIO.  2009-10-19.  “Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS)” .
  • [Eddy2008] Eddy, Nathan. 2008-02-26  “Report: Open Source Adoption Increases App Dev Pay,”ChannelWeb.
  • [Wheeler2007] Wheeler, David A. 2007-04-16, “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!”
  • [Wheeler2009] Wheeler, David A. “Free-Libre / Open Source Software (FLOSS) is Commercial Software,” revised 2009-02-03. essays/commercial-floss.html.  Summary published as “F/LOSS is Commercial Software,” Open Source Business Resource, Feb. 2009, pp. 25-33.

This article is based on [Wheeler2009].

The publication of this paper does not indicate endorsement by the Department of Defense or IDA, nor should the contents be construed as reflecting the official positions of those organizations.

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