Talk:Closed source software

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Subtle but important distinction[edit]

It is important to distinguish closed source from proprietary software. The existing text of this topic would fit better under proprietary. The writer assumes closed source is primarily distributed in binary form and that the source is not available.

In looking at all the possible combinations of source availability and distribution methods, there is an important class of software that is best described as closed source.

There is nothing that precludes releasing source code under specific licensing terms. These terms could be restrict or encourage redistribution of the source. In fact, it is likely that distribution of source code instead of binary artifacts is the most efficient and profitable.

As a counter example is generative programming. Systems built with generative programming techniques may be written in languages for which no widely available compiler/interpreter exists. The source for these systems may be made available to users of the software to verify that the intent of the logic, within the context of the language, is correct. Such systems may not even use a language per se (e.g. natural language systems.)

In any case, the tone of the existing text is distinctly open source vs. proprietary and does not make some important distinctions.

I'll try to craft an alternate definition and post it for review.

Merging into proprietary software?[edit]

This article is quite small, and I'm not sure there's much more to say. If it was to be fleshed out, it would basically turn into a duplicate of proprietary software. How about merging it into the proprietary software article? --Gronky

I agree, it makes sense since the terms either mean the same thing or are very closely related. Haakon 16:11, 2 January 2006 (UTC)
I do NOT agree. Closed source and proprietary software don't mean the same thing. There exists proprietary software which comes with source code. Even the proprietary software article mentions that! Rbarreira 00:39, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
True. However, closed source is a sub-class of proprietary software. --64.222.104.90 16:29, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
As said in more detail in the "Discussion" section below, this article is not about "proprietary software which comes with source code", so this merge proposal does not cover merging information about that topic, so there is no conflict. --Gronky 10:21, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
Merge as the other article is better and people who want to know about proprietary software (by searching for closed source) don't care about—or at least don't want to go to a less comprehensive page because of—some alleged difference in the use of the terms. Remember WP:NOT a dictionary. Also article titles should be noun phrases (i.e.: closed source software). Even if usage is different, it is clear that most proprietary software is closed source. —Joe Llywelyn Griffith Blakesley talk contrib 20:26, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Merge - per (my) proposal. Gronky 10:06, 1 August 2007 (UTC)
Don't merge - I say NO. I'm completely against merging these two articles, as Closed Source and Proprietary Software are completely different. A program can be proprietary and open source at the same time! There's no relation! cb43569 —Preceding unsigned comment added by 88.109.237.180 (talk) 11:21, 15 September 2007 (UTC)
They cannot be different. "Closed source" was invented and popularised in 1998 specifically as a "replacement name"[1] for "proprietary software". The individual words that make up these terms have different meanings, but these two articles are about the terms of art, not about the individual words. They are the exact same thing, one is just a nickname for the other. Having two separate articles is just leading to confusion. --Gronky 12:41, 15 September 2007 (UTC)
Merge since while 'open source' has a clear meaning in some circles, 'closed source' has never really been accepted with an agreed meaning (witness discussions here), while 'proprietary software' is unambiguous. If a category is wanted for 'not open source', that might as well be defined in the open source article rather than creating an article which is just a negation of another.--Ed Avis, 16 November 2007
Merge "Closed source" is slightly POV, in my humble opinion. Even though we're making an open-source encyclopedia, we still have to give proprietary/closed-source software the NPOV treatment it deserves. Lovelac7 22:36, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I do not dispute that it might be POV, however, that is 100% irrelevant. For example, it would be a violation of the WP:NPOV policy to write in wikipedia "Alice is a feminazi and Bob is a faggot". However, having articles about the expressions "feminazi", "faggot", or "closed source" is not problematic at all. --SF007 (talk) 22:51, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Merge, as they are different topics with different meaning. --SF007 (talk) 00:05, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Merge, proprietary software article may have its issues, but that does not mean an second article should be created. Fix the original article, and thus merge this into it. Belorn (talk) 11:31, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

I disagree about the merge. They are totally different and their articles should remain that way.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rarara77 (talkcontribs) 2008-08-13.

They are practically synonyms. It's important to note that these words are being used here as part of a term of art, not with their standard English meanings. In English, yes, "closed source" and "proprietary" have very different meanings, but here, both articles talk about software which is the opposite of free software (again, a term of art, meaning software which is free from restrictions that would prevent modification or sharing).
As well as being pointless duplication, by having two separate articles for two names for the same thing, Wikipedia is needlessly making it easier for people to reach the wrong conclusion that these are different things. Gronky 19:48, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
I disagree about the merge too. As said before "closed source is a sub-class of proprietary software". Closed source is different to propietary software the same way that open source is different to free software. You can give the sources of your program but not allow to modify or redistribute it (an open source propietary software). Example: Sun Microsystems' many Java classes were open but propietary. Merging the articles can be possible but remarking they aren't the same. Kokotero 10:29, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
Actually that is incorrect. If you do not give permission to modify and redistribute, then it is not open source. "Open source" is a term of art, not an adjective-noun pair. Open source and free software are pretty much the name thing. "Open source" was created in 1998 as a replacement name for "free software" - the two names refer to the same thing. And "closed source" was created in the same way, it is just a new name for proprietary software.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that they are different things. Wikipedia is just making that mistake even easier by having two separate articles for two terms for the same thing. --Gronky 10:25, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
I was using the obvious meaning of open source instead of the OSI definition. My opinion is that both meanings should be mantained, closed source as opposite of OSI's open source and closed source as opposite of open source's obvious meaning. My personal opinion is that OSI chose a worse name to replace a bad one (GNU at least has its "free as in free speech, not as in free beer"). If we decide to mantain both meanings we should not merge articles, else closed source should be a redirection. Kokotero 12:12, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
Then we're not in conflict. Wikipedia breaks things down to topics rather than names, so there are two articles for "letter" - one for the written communication and another for the thing in an alphabet. For "open source" and "closed source", each can describe one topic if read literally and can describe another topic when read as a term of art. Wikipedia articles currently exist for the two topics referred to by the term of art meanings, but as far as I know there are no Wikipedia articles about the literal meanings. As a term of art, "closed source" and "proprietary software" are the same thing. The former was simply created 18 years later to refer to the latter.
So I agree with you in terms of not destroying the other meaning of "closed source", but this article isn't about that topic, so the proposed merge will not do what you object to. If there is an article about the topic referred to by the literal meaning of the words "closed source", or if someone makes that article in future, it will not be merged into the proprietary software article. Does that work for you? --Gronky 09:26, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

I disagree with the merge. "closed source" does not necessarily refer to software. Hardware may also be considered "closed source", or any number of layers within hardware design. Only articles using specific term "closed source software" ought to be considered. 67.183.211.201 23:53, 11 September 2007 (UTC)Aud1073cH

I have renamed this page to 'closed source software' since the content is only about software. If wanted, there could be a more general page 'closed source' which would cover hardware, education, politics etc in the same manner as 'open source'. (Personally, I don't think that would make much sense, but it is possible.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ed Avis (talkcontribs) 12:08, 21 November 2007 (UTC)


"closed source" it is just a the same as proprietary software, so it should be merge66.201.161.244 19:14, 7 November 2007 (UTC)barraza.ae

Merge Reversion[edit]

I've recreated this article, with the intention of removing the POV definition, due to the lack of any article on the topic given Proprietary software having long since become a FOSS advocating article. I'd like to address some of the issues brought up in the merge talks to show reasoning for choosing this article name for the concept. I'll go through each comment in the merge one by one and try to counter them.

  • Gronky's opening statement - No longer applies, Proprietary software has long been about the negative term, and now features a definition to match.
  • Haakon's agreement - Does not apply to the current meaning. I agree with the merging of simiarly named article, however, the possibility of making that article neutral and featuring all points was resisted by both sides. By the advocates, due to a want to use the term because of what they feel about the meaning, with the sole claim that it's numbers make it a good name, despite equal representation for the opposing view. By the closed source, and general users with specific advocation, due to the fact that the definition "proprietary software" has not found widespread meaning as "lock in", and is infact in my experience (as an expert witness in British courts) used to mean specifically proprietary, even for open source software (Cathedral, as oposed to Bazaar).
  • Rbarreira's disagreement - Agree completely, even makes light of a classic case of hypocrisy I wasn't aware of, in which advocates admitted the general definition allows open source to be proprietary if you're not trying to push Richard Stallman's use of the term.
    • 64.222.104.90's comment - Incorrect, "Proprietary software" (the negative lock-in term) is a subclass of closed source and "Proprietary software" that is to say, software that is proprietary has no relation either way.
    • Gronky's comment - Admits the possibility of open source proprietary software, but claims such facts to be irrelevant data and therefore nothing todo with the merge, purely because the facts didn't feature.
  • cb43569's no merge - Correct comment about proprietary != closed, however I disagree that we should take the term literally, as the correct amalgamation "proprietary software" isn't encylopedicly unique.
    • Gronky's comment - Make's reference to the adoption of the term "closed source" as if the terms hadn't been, or couldn't be combined, given the fact that they're actually dictionary correct as a combination. Fair enough comments, however just because the term was adopted as a slogan, is of no relevance, this article is now intended to end previous Wikipedian habits at creating articles on labels instead of topics. The general term "closed source" still makes perfect semantic sense and they've never been the exact same thing... the OSI and FSF have long since taken each term it's own way as specific sub-categories of all closed source software.
  • Ed Avis' merge - I have to claim ignorance of knowledge within FOSS advoacy, but the term closed source had reached my corporate life in the 90's, so how we can claim lack of adoption I don't know. As for explicit definition, once again, these articles aren't meant to specifically highlight the OSI or FSF defintions, and infact, no serious topic can be perfectly defined by a single source. Usage of a term, and multiple sources all inflence percieved and actual definitions, but an actual writte dfnition from a single biased source is not something we want anyway, so I'm glad it is still a disputed topic, and therefore more of a "topic" han the term proprietary software, which is but a term.
  • Lovelac7's merge - It is a sad day for developers choosing to use the term that closed does have some natural negativety, however, given the extreme, intentional and semantically incorrect negativety in both the meaning and usage of "proprietary software" I don't see the problem. It is an accepted general name for the topic, used regulary to mean just not open source, with none of the specific points implied, and also, lesser used definitions of closed make perfect semantic sense (i.e. the usae in the sentence "My door's are closed", in the non-physical sense.)

The discussion went on to mention all the same points I feel I have given fair view points in oppition to. Are there any other objections? - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 16:40, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Serious mistake[edit]

I think this section of the article is terrbile and I think it should be removed or altered:

Of course, the source code for almost all software is available to someone, somewhere under some conditions or for some price so this interpretation would mean that there is practically no such thing as closed source software. For example, the source code to Microsoft Windows is available by simply buying a controlling interest in Microsoft.

So... that's like saying "there are no secrets" - because even most classified documents (CIA/NSA) were written/read by someone. (that's just silly!) I think this is really stretching the definition of open source a lot, especially the part "the source code to Microsoft Windows is available by simply buying a controlling interest in Microsoft." <-- This is just terrible and I can't even describe properly how terribly it is... SF007 (talk)

Removed. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 13:02, 10 April 2009 (UTC)
Cool --- SF007 (talk) 01:50, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Original research[edit]

This page seems to provide more specificity to the term "closed-source software" then could ever be cited. For instance, the page seems to introduce commentary on the term:

The phrase "closed source", in relation to the open source definition, is ambiguous because it implies licensing where the source code to a program is unavailable. However, if taken as being an antonym to open source, it refers to software that does not meet the Open Source Definition, which is a subtly different meaning.

"Ambiguous", according to who?

And this is not even accurate:

Microsoft's Shared source is an example of licensing where the source code is made available but not under an open-source license. If Closed source is interpreted as referring to software that does not meet the Open Source Definition, then Shared source is an example of Closed source licensing. However, if it is interpreted as simply referring to programs where the source code is not available; this isn't the case.

Some Shared Source licenses do meet the Open Source definition and the free software definition. --Ashawley (talk) 21:06, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree, I have removed that section. SF007 (talk) 19:02, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for seconding the motion. I've consequently removed the original research tag on the article. --Ashawley (talk) 04:58, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Current status of this article[edit]

This article is currently little more than a dictionary definition, and a dubious one at that. As there does not appear to be reliable evidence that the term "closed source software" is primarily understood to mean something different from "proprietary software", this article is little more than some editor's personal interpretation. I'd appreciate for those editors involved in keeping it that way to provide an update on precisely what they think this article is for and where it's heading. Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 11:50, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

Go read the definition of proprietary software. I don't think I could even stretch the wording of this article to come to a slightly similar definition to what is now, instead of a compromise, simply a series of contradictary definitions trying to find a half-way ground. Proprietary software, is software that is owned, it can be closed source, and the term is often used to refer to closed-source in certain groups, but the definition of what they are refering to will be treated on this article, while the actual definition and incorrect usage of that definition will be handled there. The reason this article was reformed was becuase of the contradictory defintion at proprietary software, which has left no article on closed source software. Yes there is little content here, as there is on many articles, that doesn't suddenly remove the terminology from existence, Wikipedia is here to document not to promote as it often attempts. This article could also do very well from salvaging what is now redundant content from proprietary software which served the archaic time when we based our Topics upon Terminology as promoted by the most fanatical of Open Source advocates. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 08:44, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
This article should have been deleted long ago. It has not been improved in many years. It's 100% original research. Just delete it.--Lester 23:08, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Wider perspective[edit]

  • Don't delete this article, since there is still a big difference between closed source and proprietary software.

There is a good cause to use only copyright for proprietary software. And still include the source code in the package.


I believe a wider perspective would be nice for this article.

  • There are several risks with closed source software, as described in this article from Alan Cox:

The risks of closed source.

  • The view of Professor Dan Bernstein is also quite interesting, where he points out that the particular "closed source software" vending company Microsoft gives doubtable licence statements, that you may not make copies or alter the software. Where this right is guaranteed in the US as well as in The European Communion:

Software user's rights.

  • There is also a discussable issue concerning the protection of copyright in closed source software: It is very easy to hide copyrighted pieces of source code in a binary file. It is fairly impossible to verify if closed source software vendors don't violate copyright laws.


I think it would be a useful bonus for the article, but I don't embed it in the article yet since I am unsure how to do it properly.

Jringoot (talk) 12:26, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

May be Internet users meet some portion of source code released under an "open-license" like Creative Commons in order to encourage revision and redistribution, but this can also remain a proprietary source code, since the owner of the license can apply specific additional clauses to the licensing terms, so as to reserve to himself the right of switching anytime to a full copyright data protection.By virtue of this point of view, it is still important to continue on distinguishing closed/open software from proprietary/not proprietary ones.
On the other hand, it there exist Internet Web Services that perform like a black-box running a closed software, whose terms of service qualify them as a permanent and free website available for anyone. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 78.14.138.52 (talk) 22:32, 16 December 2018 (UTC)