DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jan 10 03:48:28 UTC 2008

Quoting Raj Mathur (raju at linux-delhi.org):

> 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?

Here's why:

When OSI was founded in 1998, one of the main objectives was to overcome
the failure of the "free software" public-relations effort to reach a
broad audience, the problem being primarily related (of course) to the 
inherent ambiguities of that term in the English language.  (French
speakers, among others, lack this problem.)

To adopt "FOSS" would be to reintroduce the same sort of marketing
haplessness that OSI was founded (in part) to cure in the first place:
To the broader public, it seems completely incomprehensible at initial
glance (except as a German surname).  To properly understand it requires
understanding (1) free software, and also (2) open source, and finally
(3) that it's an acronym referring to both.

So, yes, it's "cute".  Yes, it's a compromise term, and thus inherently
good in the eyes of many armchair observers.  Please see:


   Concept touted by American commentators as an inherently desirable
   approach to solving other people's problems. (By contrast, all disputes
   touching on those commentators' own interests are exempt -- as
   clearly entailing "important principles" that must be defended.)

   This guideline's Solomonic wisdom can be seen in the hypothetical
   example of you, the reader (unless, of course, you're American) being
   attacked by some thug attempting to kill you: A typical American
   observer might recommend a "fair compromise" of you being left

So, in short, it sucks.  Not as badly as "FLOSS", but that's setting the
bar really, really, really low.

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