DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Charlie Poole charlie at pooleconsulting.com
Wed Jan 9 23:00:57 UTC 2008

Hi Ernie, 

Within the scope and level at which you are approaching this,
I think it's a pretty good shot. I think it's the right level
for this sort of thing as well.

One point that might be added is that the "free software" perspective
seems to prefer certain free licenses over others on philosophical grounds.
While folks more aligned to "open source" may have individual preferences,
there is no systematic leaning in favor of particular open source licenses.


> It depends. Much of the time, the two phrases can be used 
> interchangeably, but sometimes they indicate significantly 
> different perspectives.
> 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 distinction.
> Note that in this context "free" always means "libre" (as in free
> speech) rather than "gratis" (as in free beer).

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