Linux

The difference between free and open source software

You may think free and open source software is the same thing. Surprisingly there are people who do not support open source software but support free software. The most vocal of this is Richard Stallman, the founder of GNU.

Rarely would you be able to make the distinction between free and open source software.  The difference is not with the software itself but the ideology you bundle with it. The ideology is fundamentally that non-free software does not have a right to exist and it is a “social problem”. Open source does not care if you install closed source software on your open source system. The free software camp seems like its trying to save users from their own choices even if they have no desire to be saved. Open source is comprised of a concrete licence. It clearly spells out what you can and can not do with the software. The software does that care what else you do with your computer as long as you abide by the rules.

Richard Stallman says he disagrees with open source because of idealogical reasons. But open source is about as free as you can get. You need to give all your changes back. You can’t prevent a specific person or group from using it. You can’t prevent a specific person from distributing it. Free software isn’t about the software at all. Its a ideology. If a specific piece of software is open source it is also free. Open source can be tangibly seen in the licence and in the source code. Free software is just an ideology that must be enforced by the user with regards to every byte that finds it’s way onto their machine.

I can not see why anyone would oppose open source. A computer is a tool. You don’t need to have a political ideology for a tool. Let users decide what is best for them. If open source software is the right choice it will be used. Using free software is to set limitations for what goes into your computer as a political statement. Its a silent protest. Most users will never care about the ideology behind their software. They just want software that works. Creating superior software is the way to move the masses to software that supports your ideology – whatever it is.