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Difference between Free Software and Open Source Software

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Free Software:

 “Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. The term “free software” is sometimes misunderstood—it has nothing to do with price. It is about freedom. 

Advantages:

  • Cost: Free software is typically free to use, modify and distribute.
  • Freedom: Free software is often accompanied by a set of ethical principles that promote users’ freedom to use, study, modify, and share the software.
  • Collaboration: Free software often encourages collaboration among developers and users, leading to faster development and better quality software.
  • Transparency: Free software is often developed in a transparent way, with the source code and development process available for public scrutiny.
  • Flexibility: Free software can be used on a wide range of platforms and devices.


Disadvantages:

  • Support: While free software does have a community of developers and users, it may not always have the same level of professional support as commercial software.
  • Compatibility: Free software may not always be compatible with other software applications and hardware devices.
  • Security: Because free software is available for everyone to use and modify, it may be easier for malicious actors to identify and exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Complexity: Free software can be more complex and difficult to use than commercial software, especially for non-technical users.
  • Documentation: Free software may not always have the same level of documentation and user guides as commercial software.

Open Source Software:

 Open Source Software is something that you can modify as per your needs, and share with others without any licensing violation burden. When we say Open Source, the source code of the software is available publicly with Open Source licenses like GNU (GPL) which allows you to edit the source code and distribute it. Read these licenses and you will realize that these licenses are created to help us.

  1. Coined by the development environments around software produced by open collaboration of software developers on the internet.
  2. Later specified by the Open Source Initiative (OSI).
  3. It does not explicitly state ethical values, besides those directly associated with software development.

Advantages:

  • Cost: Open source software is typically free to use, modify and distribute.
  • Customization: The source code of open source software is available to everyone, allowing users to modify and customize it to suit their needs.
  • Community support: Open source software often has a large community of developers and users who contribute to its development and provide support.
  • Transparency: The source code of open source software is open for everyone to see, making it easier to identify and fix bugs and vulnerabilities.
  • Flexibility: Open source software can be used on a wide range of platforms and devices.


Disadvantages:

  • Support: While open source software does have a large community of developers and users, it may not always have the same level of professional support as commercial software.
  • Compatibility: Open source software may not always be compatible with other software applications and hardware devices.
  • Security: Because the source code of open source software is available to everyone, it may be easier for malicious actors to identify and exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Complexity: Open source software can be more complex and difficult to use than commercial software, especially for non-technical users.
  • Documentation: Open source software may not always have the same level of documentation and user guides as commercial software.

Similarities:

  • Both free software and open source software have access to the source code, allowing users 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.

Difference between Free Software and Open Source Software:

S.No.FS PhilosophyOSS Philosophy
1.It was coined by the Free Software Foundation in the 1980s.In response to the restrictions of free software, the phrase “open source” was coined in the late 1990s.
2.Software is an important part of people’s lives.Software is just software. There are no ethics associated directly with it.
3.Software freedom translates to social freedom.Ethics are to be associated with the people not with the software.
4.Freedom is a value that is more important than any economical advantage.Freedom is not an absolute concept. Freedom should be allowed, not imposed.
5.Every free software is open source.Every open-source software is not free software.
6.There is no such issue that exists in free software.There are many different open-source software licenses, and some of them are quite restricted, resulting in open-source software that is not free.
7.No restrictions are imposed on free software.Open-source software occasionally imposes some constraints on users.
8.Examples: The Free Software Directory maintains a large database of free software packages. Some of the best-known examples include the Linux kernel, the BSD and Linux operating systems, the GNU Compiler Collection and C library; the MySQL relational database; the Apache web server; and the Sendmail mail transport agent.Examples: Prime examples of open-source products are the Apache HTTP Server, the e-commerce platform Open Source Commerce, internet browsers Mozilla Firefox, and Chromium (the project where the vast majority of development of the freeware Google Chrome is done), and the full office suite LibreOffice.

Conclusion :

Free software and open-source software are two distinct concepts, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Free software is developed with the goal of promoting freedom and giving users complete control over the software they use. Open-source software is developed with the goal of producing high-quality software that can be used by anyone, regardless of their technical ability. Ultimately, the choice between free software and open-source software depends on the needs of the user and the specific problem they are trying to solve.


Last Updated : 24 Mar, 2023
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