I didn’t used to think that who came up with the name of a thing particularly mattered, nor how it came about.
I’ve changed my mind, however, as the history of these things also potentially tells you about their future. In this article, Christine Peterson outlines how she came up with the term ‘open source’:
The introduction of the term “open source software” was a deliberate effort to make this field of endeavor more understandable to newcomers and to business, which was viewed as necessary to its spread to a broader community of users. The problem with the main earlier label, “free software,” was not its political connotations, but that—to newcomers—its seeming focus on price is distracting. A term was needed that focuses on the key issue of source code and that does not immediately confuse those new to the concept. The first term that came along at the right time and fulfilled these requirements was rapidly adopted: open source.
Tellingly, as it was the 1990s, Peterson let a man introduce it for the term to gain traction:
Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned “freely distributable” as an earlier term, and “cooperatively developed” as a newer term. Eric listed “free software,” “open source,” and “sourceware” as the main options. Todd advocated the “open source” model, and Eric endorsed this. I didn’t say much, letting Todd and Eric pull the (loose, informal) consensus together around the open source name. It was clear that to most of those at the meeting, the name change was not the most important thing discussed there; a relatively minor issue. Only about 10% of my notes from this meeting are on the terminology question.
From this point, Tim O’Reilly had to agree and popularise it, but:
Coming up with a phrase is a small contribution, but I admit to being grateful to those who remember to credit me with it. Every time I hear it, which is very often now, it gives me a little happy twinge.