Sunday, July 26, 2009

What is Free Software? What is Open Source?

Free Software, as used in this web site, refers to software distributed in source form which can be freely modified and redistributed, or freely modifiable and redistributable software. It does not refer to zero-cost software. This usage of the name "Free Software" was common in the Unix world and recently introduced to the general computer community. Free Software is also referred to as Freed Software, Liberated Software (software libre) or FRS (freely redistributable software). "Open Source" is a marketing name for Free Software, coined in Feb 1998 as an attempt to overcome the confusion over the word "free" in the English language. Open Source refers to the fact that the source code of Free Software is open to and for the world to take, to modify and to reuse. The precise meaning of Free Software is spelled out in the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the Free Software Definition while Open Source is defined officially by the Open Source Definition. Open Source and Free Software refer to, originally the same (around Feb 1998), but now different but largely similiar, set of software, but they emphasize different rationals; see Why ``Free Software'' is better than ``Open Source'' for more explanation.

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