The music industry has the Grammies. Hollywood has the Oscars. And now, the open source software community has the Open Source Awards.

Okay, so the name isn’t quite as catchy as, say, “Tony” or “Golden Globe,” but then, that’s the very nature of open source software—people toiling away in this industry are not in it for the glitz and glamour. It’s about the challenge. It’s like climbing Mt. Everest—you do it because it’s there. But, the funny thing is that along the way these teams and individuals actually develop something useful to a greater community of users: the open source community.

The first annual awards
In cooperation with the Open Source Initiative (OSI), we are proud to announce the first of what will become a regular event. There are three categories of Open Source Awards:

  • Merit awards, given for excellence in an open source project. These will consist of a bronze medal, a certificate, and an award of $500.
  • Grand Master awards, given to persons with an outstanding record of contributions to the open source and Internet cultures. The award will consist of a gold medal, an award of $10,000, and an invitation to serve as an Elector on the OSI’s Awards Committee.
  • Special awards made at the Committee’s discretion. These will consist of a silver medal and a $1,500 cash award.

The awards we’re announcing today are the first set of Merit awards, also called Bronze awards for the color of the medal. These are given for excellence in an open source project. Some of the winners are individuals—for projects on which they have clearly been the main contributor. For some, the winner is the project itself.

Read more about the winners of the 2004 Open Source Awards:

Julian Seward for Valgrind
Sooner or later, in the life of every developer, you’ll have to turn to a debugger. There’s only so much you can do with embedded println statements. For the Linux-on-Intel-x86 crowd, one of the most popular options available is Julian Seward’s valgrind. It works by emulating the Intel CPU so that it can see exactly what your program is doing, and it is a fair match for commercially available Linux debuggers such as Purify, at a fraction of the price—free. Read more about Mr. Seward and his remarkable debugger.

Can a university in Paris, France challenge the might of Seattle’s Microsoft and Real Networks in the streaming multimedia game? Absolutely—VideoLAN started as a school project, but it has blossomed into a full-featured solution for streaming media on the Web. It handles multimedia streaming of MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and DivX files, DVDs, digital satellite channels, digital terrestial television channels, and live video. Plus, it’s truly cross-platform, running on various Linux flavors as well as on Mac OS X and Windows. Read more about VideoLAN and the team that helped create it.

Paul Davis for Jack
What would you do if you found that the only way to get audio from one application into another was by running a cable from your sound card’s speaker jack into the microphone jack? If you’re Paul Davis, you start an open source community project. Two years ago, Mr. Davis realized that one of the critical issues in multimedia being truly useful on Linux was the question of how to get different audio applications to talk to each other. This is exactly what the Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK) does. Read more about Paul Davis and the audio API he helped create.

Those of us based in the United States tend to forget this fact, but not everyone on the World Wide Web uses English as their primary language. This is where Pango comes in—to provide a framework for the layout and rendering of internationalized text. Using Unicode for all of its encoding, Pango can potentially render any language. It just requires someone in the open source community to create the language-specific pieces that Pango needs to make that rendering possible. Read more about how Pango is trying to bring order to this Tower of Babel.

And more to come…
There will be additional bronze awards granted throughout the year, and this summer the OSI committee will announce the Grand Master and Special awards during the O’Reilly Open Source Convention. Stay tuned for more coverage of the awards and open source in general, here at

Know of an open source project or developer deserving of recognition from the open source community? Then nominate them for an Open Source Award.