DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

james cook azerthoth at gmail.com
Thu Jan 10 13:59:48 UTC 2008

On 1/9/08, Ernest Prabhakar <ernest.prabhakar at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> 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.
> Thanks!
> -- Ernie P.
> L-D Moderator
> https://osi.osuosl.org/wiki/help/opensource
> 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).

I have been following license-discuss for some time now, this is the
first time that I have felt compelled to post though. For me
personally that description is spot on. It clearly and succinctly
describes 2 non opposing schools of thought. If that were the first
thing someone who was looking to understand the differance between the
two were to run across, then all of any further research and
discussion that they engaged in would fall into context rather nicely.

Well done.
Jim Cook

More information about the License-discuss mailing list