What Free Software Means

khess 0 Tallied Votes 1K Views Share

You often hear the terms 'free software' and open source used interchangeably but they're not the same. In fact, true free software zealots launch into a fiery diatribe on the issue should you even utter the words "open source" when speaking of free software. Free software is not related to the amount of money you pay (or don't pay) for software; it is an ideology. Free means freedom. Most writers relate the concept to free speech or free beer, however, neither fully illustrates the concept.

Free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), comply with the Four Freedoms.

Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.

Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.

Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies.

Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

So, you see, for Freedoms 2 and 3 to be met, the source code must be available. And not only must it be available, it must be available for modification for any purpose, commercial or otherwise. These two freedoms make the term 'open source' redundant and unnecessary.

The other major issue with the term 'open source' is that it does not imply freedom of any kind. Just because you can look at the source means nothing from a freedom perspective. Restrictions might keep you from modifying the code for any purpose, redistribution or charging for your new version. These restrictions are abominable to the FSF and its members.

The two key points to remember are:

Open source and free do not mean the same thing.
Free software has nothing to do with price.

For more information, please visit the Free Software Foundation and the GNU website.

makybe 0 Newbie Poster

A Free software site can be found at http://spacejock.com/FCharts2.html and as this DANIWEB forum caters for many students and new starters in the software development field, a look at information on the FCharts site is worthwhile. This developer is a sole developer and his software is the best I have come across and I use his FCHARTS and yWriter software. Take a look at examples of his new upgrade development shown on this site as well as list of free software.

Free in this context only allows free to use the software; but the software is so useful that there is little need for the other freedoms mentioned above. Cheers.

chinku kain 0 Newbie Poster

Great information.... You made it clear that free software has nothing to do with its price... But I came across a free accounting software, will these 4 freedoms will be appicable to them...

makybe 0 Newbie Poster

This is probably a question for the FREEWARE people. I am too old to be worried about being accountable for anything, but someone may try it out. Top class Free software can be very helpful at any time. Chers.

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