c What the heck is free software? - Digital Stade

What the heck is free software?

What the heck is free software?

I have heard people talk about Open source, and say that Open source is the same as “freeware”. In this article, I’ll be explaining to you what freeware is, and how it is different from Open source.

Freeware is software that is distributed without charge and which may be redistributed without charge by its users. However, ownership is kept by the developer who may change future releases from freeware to a paid products.

Freeware is software that is free of restrictions and why may be free of charge. Free software licenses grant users the freedom to use it for any purpose, study and change the source code and copy and redistribute the software with or without modifications.

Free software must come with source code or provide access to it, while the freedom to redistribute includes the right to give away copies gratis as well as sell copies. See here for a complete, official definition of free software.

Occasionally, free software comes from proprietary products that were liberated by their developers; for example, the proprietary Netscape Web browser was later turned into the free software Mozilla and Firefox browsers. However, most free software is intentionally written to be free, the most notable of which is the GNU/Linux operating system.


Free Means Freedom, Not Free of Charge

When used in the context of this definition, without a doubt, the “free” in free software can be misleading. Although a huge amount of free software is indeed free of charge, and most developers of free software are volunteers, there is also a great amount that is not.

For example, many distributions of the GNU/Linux system are paid for by the customer. Therefore, since free software can be commercial, the notion of free software should be contrasted with “proprietary software”, not “commercial software”.


Free Software vs. Open Source

The difference is philosophy. Strongly influenced by its founder Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation extols the virtues of free software as an ethical movement, vitally necessary for the advancement of society, Open source was derived from the free software movement but focuses on practical benefits without touting moral issues. In fact, most open-source licenses are free software licenses, but some are too restrictive to quality.

Open source is another term for software that can be studied, shared and modified. It, too, is a movement, and its leading voice is the Open Source Initiative.

They created the Open Source Definition, a ten-point description of what open source means. Many of its aims are similar to those of free software:

  • Others should be allowed to distribute Open Source software, either for free or at a price.
  • Modifications of the software are allowed and must be distributed under the same terms as the original software.
  • Discrimination is discouraged, either against any person or group, or any purpose for using the software.

The aims of the two movements are similar. But their values are different. I hope this article helped you learn more about free software. If you liked this guide, then please consider sharing it with people you know will find it useful.

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