DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open
ernest.prabhakar at gmail.com
Wed Jan 9 19:01:54 UTC 2008
On Jan 8, 2008, at 8:20 PM, Rick Moen wrote:
>> "What is the difference between 'open source' and 'free software'?"
> 1. Nice can of worms you have there. Good luck chasing them down.
Well, I've given it my best shot (below), incorporating the various
points that have been raised. Feedback? Suggestions?
Also, I strongly encourage people to focus their discussion on how to
improve (or expand) the FAQ, rather than general philosophical
discussions about "free vs. open". The goal of the new license
discuss is *convergence*, to ensure we generate more light than heat.
-- Ernie P.
It depends. Much of the time, the two phrases can be used
interchangeably, but sometimes they indicate significantly different
Strictly speaking, the term free software is traditionally used by the
Free Software Foundation to refer to software whose license conforms
to their list of four freedoms, as opposed "open source" licenses
which conform to the Open Source Definition. In practice, however,
virtually all open source licenses also qualify as free software
licenses, and vice versa, so many individuals use the terms
interchangeably -- or conjoined, as in the somewhat awkward phrase
Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS).
Philosophically, the term "free software" is often associated with an
ideological position on how software should be available, whereas
"open source" more commonly reflects a pragmatic concern regarding how
software should be developed. However, this may or may not matter to a
particular speaker, so be cautious about reading too much into the
Note that in this context "free" always means "libre" (as in free
speech) rather than "gratis" (as in free beer).
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