How is free software different from open-source software

While there are similarities between free software and open-source software, they are based on different philosophies and have different goals.

Free software and open-source software have some similarities , but there are also some differences that set them apart.

Free software:

  • Respects users’ freedom and community.
  • Users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software.
  • The term “free” refers to freedom, not price.
  • Free software is a matter of liberty, not just the absence of cost.
  • Users are legally free to do what they want with their copies of free software, including profiting from them, regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program.
  • Free software is a political and ethical choice that asserts the right to learn and share knowledge with others.
  • The free software movement was started in 1983 by computer scientist Richard M. Stallman.
  • Free software is different from freeware, which is a type of proprietary software that is released without charge to the public.
  • To be considered free software, a program must meet the four essential freedoms: the freedom to run the program as you wish, the freedom to study and change the program, the freedom to redistribute exact copies, and the freedom to distribute modified versions.

Open-source software:

  • Allows users to access the source code, allowing them to modify and improve the software.
  • Open-source software is developed with the goal of producing high-quality software that can be used by anyone, regardless of their technical ability.
  • Open-source software is developed with the goal of promoting collaboration with people worldwide.
  • Open-source software is sometimes referred to as “free and open-source software” (FOSS).
  • Open-source software is different from free software in that it does apply a few restrictions to the users sometimes.
  • Nearly all open-source software is free software, but there are exceptions.
  • Some open-source licenses are too restrictive, so they do not qualify as free software.
  • The philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better” in a practical sense only.
  • Open source values mainly practical advantage and does not campaign for principles.

Similarities:

  • Both free software and open-source software provide users with access to the source code, allowing them to modify and improve the software. Both types of software often rely on a community of users and developers to provide support and contribute to the development of the software. Both free software and open-source software are often distributed under open licenses, allowing users to use, modify, and distribute the software without restrictions.

Differences:

  • The main difference is in the philosophy behind the development of the software. Free software is developed with the goal of promoting freedom and giving users control over the software they use . The open-source software development model, on the other hand, is focused on producing high-quality software with collaborative development practices.
  • Free software often includes a statement of the user’s rights to use, modify, and distribute the software, which is often referred to as a “copyleft” license. Open-source licenses do not necessarily include such a statement.
  • Free software is often associated with the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which promotes the use of free software and advocates for user freedoms. Open-source software is typically associated with the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which promotes the use of open-source software and advocates for the benefits of collaborative software development.

While free software and open-source software share some similarities, they have different philosophical viewpoints. Free software is a matter of liberty and asserts the right to learn and share knowledge with others, while open-source software values mainly practical advantage and does not campaign for principles.

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