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Chapter 9: Open Source Software


Opening Quote  

The full quote is "Open source production has shown us that world-class software, like Linux and Mozilla, can be created with neither the bureaucratic structure of the firm nor the incentives of the marketplace as we’ve known them." I dropped the "and Mozilla" because one of my reviewers commented that Mozilla isn't software. It's a project and a foundation, and yes, it does work with the incentives of the marketplace.

Open Source

Revolution OS is an excellent documentary about the rise of open source software. The full version is freely available on YouTube:

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I was introduced to Eric Raymond's paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Patrick Debois while working for the Flemish Government in 1998.

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Read How I coined the term 'open source' by Christine Peterson on

The Open Source Definition was drafted by the Open Source Initiative.

Netscape / Mozilla

Netscape was the leading web browser when I started my career in tech. In 1998, Netscape announced that it would open the source code of its browser. Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox was born:

Interesting Links

In the book, I list a series of websites that were very important in the evolution of iText:

Versioning Systems

The iText code was moved from one versioning system to the other over the years:

  • CVS: from 2000 to 2007
  • SVN: from 2007 to 2015
  • git: from 2015 to present

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

A LEGO movie explains the origin of free and open source software and debunks some myths that were meant to spread FUD:

I didn't find the original footage where Steve Ballmer says that "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to eve-rything it touches" but you'll find the quote all over the internet if you search for it.

I found the quote from Shai Agassi in an article that is no longer available, but you can read more about it on and

Book Quotes  

  • I was too young to have known the Altair 8800, but old enough to have used BASIC as my first programming language. I was too far away from Silicon Valley to be part of the companies that pioneered with free and open source software, but I was working on my own small project in Belgium.
  • I decided to add the MPL as an alternative license to the LGPL, not so much because companies asked me to, but because I had become aware that the division between free software and open source software was also a political division. Free software supporters were often depicted as radicals and communists. I didn’t want people to think I was either a radical or a communist. Adding an open source license as an alternative license for iText was a small effort to avoid such misconceptions.


  • On page 111, I wrote "In 2012, we moved the code repository to GitHub and started using git as our primary versioning system." but that should be "In 2014, we moved the code repository to GitHub and started using git as our primary versioning system." (typo discovered by Amedee Van Gasse, the person responsible for the migration from svn to github).

Soundtrack for this Chapter  

I listen to music, but my taste in music is questionable. I've selected a handful of songs for every chapters. Sometimes, there's a link to the chapter, sometimes I just like the song.

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