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Difference between Free Software and Open Source Software

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  • Difficulty Level : Medium
  • Last Updated : 16 Jun, 2022

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. 

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.

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.
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