DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Raj Mathur raju at linux-delhi.org
Thu Jan 10 03:54:34 UTC 2008

On Thursday 10 Jan 2008, Rick Moen wrote:
> 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:
> http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/lexicon.html#compromise
>    Compromise
>    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 _half-dead_.
> So, in short, it sucks.  Not as badly as "FLOSS", but that's setting
> the bar really, really, really low.

We'd need another term to apply to the huge number of people like me who 
have their foot in both the free software and the open source camps 
then.  I'd strongly resent being called just a ``Free Software'' xor an 
``Open Source'' advocate/practitioner, so FOSS suits me down to the 

Any suggestions?


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