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ClearlyDefined and our parent organization, the Open Source Initiative, are on a mission to help Open Source projects thrive by being, well, clearly defined. Lack of clarity around licenses and security vulnerabilities reduces engagement -- that means fewer users, fewer contributors and a smaller community.

This is a community-wide challenge that needs a community-wide approach.

As such, the goals of the project are to:

  • Raise awareness about this challenge within FOSS project teams
  • Automatically harvest data from projects
  • Make it easy for anyone to contribute missing information
  • Crowd-source the curation of these contributions
  • Feed curated contributions back to the original projects

FOSS consumers often struggle to find basic things like the license for a component, the source location (e.g., Git commit) for a version, and details to be included in attributions (e.g., copyright holders in a Notices file). These ambiguities make projects hard to consume. Projects that are hard to consume get less engagement. Everyone loses.

To date, most people are: ignoring the problem, vetting FOSS through repetitive, duplicative efforts, or employing external tools and services to do this task. ClearlyDefined seeks to help projects be more clear from the beginning. It provides a mechanism for harvesting available data using tools such as ScanCode and FOSSology, and facilitates crowd-sourcing the curation of that information when ambiguities or gaps arise. The ultimate goal of harvesting and curation is to contribute any new-found clarity (e.g., new licenses found) to the upstream projects so they can include the updates in their next release -- thus becoming more clearly defined. Everyone wins.

Right now the focus is on clarifying an individual project’s license, source code location, and copyright holders -- all the essentials for engaging with a project. Going forward, we see security, accessibility, and internationalization being important parts of the ClearlyDefined ecosystem.

Get involved

It’s still very early days and we don’t have all the answers. ClearlyDefined is still being defined. You can help. Come design the processes, make decisions, connect with projects, and build the community. Find out more about how to get involved.

You can find the community at:

Everyone would love to hear how you want to get involved in ClearlyDefined!