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Software Freedom - By Any Name

"Free software" (-- as in speech)
"Open Source" (-- as in unfettered)
... O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Romeo and Juliet. Act II. Scene II. William Shakespeare. 1914. The Oxford Shakespeare

I expect that for many software users, these terms are interchangeable and indistinguishable. But these terms evolved from different lineage, each baring a well-defined definition established by thoughtful committee. The terms are technically different, with the details and subtleties of those difference being expounded upon at lenghth by the various proponents.

Personally, I prefer, generally use, the term "Open Source."

(... or is it "Opensource"?  No! - not according to The Open Source Definition, maintained by the Open Source Initiative - it's two words, each capitalized).

My computer, however, lives on "Free software" - The GNU Operating System - which is maintained under The Free Software Definition, as proscribed by the Free Software Foundation.

So ... does it matter? Do I need to change something? My phraseology? My software? The simple answer is - yes and no.

Understanding the root of the question - and the differences in the definitions - is, I believe informative and, to a degree, important. The Free Software Foundation frames the definition of "Free software" according to philosophical principles of import (as in "free speech" is important) and claims that the "Open Source Definition" is based on arguments of

practical benefits only.

merely based on pra of great import. (I agree, but not for all the reasons of the FSF.)

definer of the term - The Open Source Definition

 in the use and Freedom in software means different things to different people.

Here are some of the voices in the Open community:

Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users.

The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software and documentation — particularly the GNU operating system.

The GNU Operating System was developed with the intent to respect users' freedom to use a computer without software that would trample that freedom.


The program in a Unix-like system that allocates machine resources and talk to the hardware is called the “kernel”. GNU is typically used with a kernel called Linux. This combination is the GNU/Linux operating system.
The GNU Operating System and the Free Software Movement


Free Software Definition

The FSF maintains historic articles covering free software philosophy and maintains the Free Software Definition — to show clearly what must be true about a particular software program for it to be considered free software.

Free software is a matter of liberty, not price — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software </blockquote>

The FSF definition:

“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. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”.
What is free software? - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation
A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms: The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0). The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
What is free software? - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation

Apache Software Foundation (ASF)

The mission of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is to provide software for the public good. We do this by providing services and support for many for like-minded software project communities of individuals.
... spirit of open, collaborative development among individuals, industry, and nonprofit organizations.
Apache License v2.0 and GPL Compatibility

Licensing Opensource

The two major categories of free software license are copyleft and non-copyleft . Copyleft licenses such as the GNU GPL insist that modified versions of the program must be free software as well. Non-copyleft licenses do not insist on this. We recommend copyleft, because it protects freedom for all users, but non-copylefted software can still be free software, and useful to the free software community.
BSD License Problem - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation