Recently our college curriculum was re-structured and we were given choices to take any of the subject as per our interest. I chose “OPEN SOURCE TECHNOLOGY” because I have been using some Open Source software for quite some time now.

I was shocked to see when a faculty in our class termed “FREE SOFTWARE” as “FREEWARES”!! I was like wth!! And soon I  decided to mail the entire class what is the actual difference between FREE SOFTWARE and Open Source Software. [Though I support both movement, in short you can call me a FLOSS enthusiast. Yet, clear distinction between the two is required]

Here is my e-mail which I wrote:


This mail is specifically addressed to the students who have opted for the subject “OPEN SOURCE TECHNOLOGY”.
As you all know Free Software & Open Source Software appears to be one and the same thing but as a matter of fact they are not. I found it quite annoying when someone refers to “FREE SOFTWARE” as “FREEWARES!!” which is a complete misnomer in itself.
English is a global language but it has it’s restrictions. The word “FREE” in the term “FREE SOFTWARE” does NOT refer to the price of the software but in fact it refers to FREEDOM that comes with it.
I have been a great supporter of Free Software but due to the globalization and bazaar based policy, the people coined a new term “OPEN SOURCE” which aims at more strategic marketing approach.
The reason for writing this mail is to clear the confusion between “Free Software “and “Open Source”.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Stallman’s blog post and I quote :-
” When we call software “free,” we mean that it respects the users’ essential freedoms: the freedom to run it, to study and change it, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. This is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of “free speech,” not “free beer.”
These freedoms are vitally important. They are essential, not just for the individual users’ sake, but for society as a whole because they promote social solidarity—that is, sharing and cooperation. They become even more important as our culture and life activities are increasingly digitized. In a world of digital sounds, images, and words, free software becomes increasingly essential for freedom in general.”

In case of Open Source the philosophy is quite reversed, you can refer to it as bazaar based policy

“open source stands for criteria a little weaker than those of free software”

To give you a brief insight, Open Source Software also gives user the same right but sometimes comes with dual licensing!! and even some non free applications. The most popular Linux distro UBUNTU is one such example which uses VLC Media Player and other non free components

The main objective of my mail is to make people understand the clear cut difference between “Free Software” and “Open Source Software”, Both being different entity within same sandbox!

In the end I would like to mention one more thing, I recently wrote to Mr. Richard Matthew Stallman, founder of GNU and FSF and he told me that he uses the following link to make people aware about the clear difference between the two.

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Hope that you’ll get a clear picture of both the side.

p.s: Please DO NOT reply to this thread as “REPLY TO ALL”, in case you want to discuss this please feel free to ping me on my mail, with different subject header.

Thanks & Regards

Aniket Maithani

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