DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Raj Mathur raju at linux-delhi.org
Thu Jan 10 03:21:11 UTC 2008

On Thursday 10 Jan 2008, Ernest Prabhakar wrote:
> [snip]
> 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).

I'd avoid the footnote on the awkwardness (or otherwise) of FLOSS; how 
about replacing it with FOSS, which is rapidly becoming more popular 
anyway and is presumably less awkward?

> 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).


-- Raju
Raj Mathur                raju at kandalaya.org      http://kandalaya.org/
 Freedom in Technology & Software || February 2008 || http://freed.in/
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