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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html>
  3. <head>
  4. <title>Free Software, Open Source, FOSS, FLOSS - same same but different</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body id="article">
  7. <p id="category">
  8. <a href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">Free Software</a>
  9. </p>
  10. <h1>Free Software, Open Source, FOSS, FLOSS - same same but different</h1>
  11. <div id="introduction">
  12. <p>
  13. There are two major terms connected to software you can freely use,
  14. study, share and improve: Free Software and Open Source. Based on
  15. them you can also find different combinations and translations like
  16. FOSS, Libre Software, FLOSS and so on. So why do people use these
  17. terms, and how are they different from one another?
  18. </p>
  19. </div>
  20. <h2>Historical background</h2>
  21. <p>
  22. Historically, Free Software was the first term, created 1986 together
  23. with the <a href="/about/basics/freesoftware.html">Free Software
  24. definition</a>. In 1997 Debian, a project aiming to create a completely free
  25. and community based GNU/Linux distribution, developed the Debian Free
  26. Software Guidelines
  27. (<a href="http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines">DFSG</a>) as a
  28. check-list whether a program can be included in the distribution or
  29. not. One year later, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was set up as a
  30. <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20021217003716/http://www.opensource.org/advocacy/faq.html">marketing
  31. campaign for Free Software</a>. It introduced
  32. the <a href="http://opensource.org/docs/osd">Open Source definition</a>
  33. by copying the DFSG and replacing "Free Software" with "Open
  34. Source". According to
  35. a <a href="http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/1999/02/msg01641.html">public
  36. statement</a> by Bruce Perens, one of the founders of the OSI and author
  37. of the DFSG and Open Source Definition, the Open Source term was intended
  38. as a synonym for Free Software. Perens eventually decided to return to
  39. the roots of the movement and to speak about Free Software again. Thanks
  40. to their shared roots, both Open Source and Free Software describe the
  41. complete set and the whole range of software licenses that give users the
  42. right to use, study, share and improve the software<a class="fn"
  43. href="#fn1">1</a>.
  44. </p>
  45. <p>
  46. In the course of time people came up with additional labels for the same
  47. set of software. Today terms such as Libre Software, FOSS (Free and Open
  48. Source Software) or FLOSS (Free, Libre and Open Source Software) are
  49. often used to describe Free Software. In some cases people also use terms
  50. like "organic software" or "ethical software". Often the motivation for
  51. terms like FOSS or FLOSS is to stay out of the terminology debate and to avoid
  52. confusion through words like "open" or "free". But these terms tend to cause another
  53. confusion, because they virtually invite people to look for differences
  54. between the terms where actually no differences exists, regarding the
  55. software they describe.
  56. </p>
  57. <p>
  58. This short summary of the historical origin of the different terms should
  59. show that at the end all of them have the same root and refer to the same
  60. set of software.
  61. </p>
  62. <h2>Who uses which term, and why?</h2>
  63. <p>
  64. The Free Software movement is a large and diverse community. People have
  65. different interests in Free Software and different reasons to
  66. participate. But these differences don't necessarily connect with the
  67. terms they use. A lot of people use the term Open Source even while
  68. highlighting the social and political dimension of Free Software while on
  69. the other hand there are people in our community who prefer the term
  70. Free Software but concentrate more on the practical benefits. Whether
  71. someone says Open Source or Free Software isn't necessarily an indication
  72. of their motivation.
  73. </p>
  74. <p>
  75. Beside individuals there are also many well known organisations in the
  76. Free Software ecosystem. Many of them play an important role and
  77. emphasize different aspects of Free Software. For example, some
  78. organisations focus on the technical direction of Free Software projects,
  79. some on legal aspects, some on political, social and ethical aspects and
  80. some focus on license evaluation. These organisations typically have
  81. decided to use one or another term and stick to it. But this should not
  82. lead to the conclusion that the term they use is the critical factor
  83. regarding their motivations. The critical factor are the people driving
  84. the organisation and the goals of the organisation as such. The practical
  85. experience with different organisations and people in the community shows
  86. that the line can't be drawn along the language they use.
  87. </p>
  88. <p>
  89. This diversity is good, as it shows that Free Software provides many
  90. advantages in many different areas of our life. But we should not divide
  91. our community just by the term someone prefers. No matter what term
  92. someone uses and what their initial motivation is, in the end they works
  93. on the same set of software and on the enhancement of software freedom
  94. and any other aspect of Free Software.
  95. </p>
  96. <h2>License evaluation</h2>
  97. <p>
  98. There are three widely recognized entities in the Free Software movement
  99. that regularly evaluate licenses: The <a href="http://www.fsf.org">Free
  100. Software Foundation</a>, the <a href="http://www.debian.org">Debian
  101. project</a> and the <a href="http://www.opensource.org">Open Source
  102. Initiative</a>. When asked whether a particular license gives software
  103. users the freedom to use, study, share and improve the program, they
  104. almost always come to the same conclusions.
  105. </p>
  106. <h2>Does Copyleft make the difference?</h2>
  107. <p>
  108. Looking at Free Software licenses there are two main categories,
  109. protective or <a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/">Copyleft</a>
  110. licenses and non-protective licenses. While Copyleft licenses are
  111. designed to protect the rights to use, study, share and improve the
  112. software non-protective licenses allow to distribute the software without
  113. those rights. Sometimes people think that the terms Free Software and
  114. Open Source are used to distinguish between Copyleft and non-Copyleft
  115. licenses. The lists of Free Software licenses by Debian, the FSF and the
  116. OSI show that both protective and non-protective licenses comply with the
  117. Free Software definition and the Open Source definition. This means that
  118. neither the terms Open Source and Free Software nor the different
  119. definitions are suitable to distinguish between Copyleft and non-Copyleft
  120. licenses.
  121. </p>
  122. <p>
  123. <center>
  124. <img src="/freesoftware/basics/softwaremodels.png" alt="This graphic
  125. should visualise the different software categories and their
  126. connection" title="This graphic visualises the different software
  127. categories and their connection"/>
  128. </center>
  129. </p>
  130. <p>
  131. Protective licenses and non-protective licenses are sub-classes of Free
  132. Software licenses recognized by the Open Source Initiative and the
  133. FSF. Copyleft or non-Copyleft is not a criteria suitable to distinguish
  134. between Open Source and Free Software, both terms describe the same set
  135. of software.
  136. </p>
  137. <h2>Development model</h2>
  138. <p>
  139. The way a program is developed can be a crucial factor in its success or
  140. failure. But whether a program is written in an open, participatory
  141. process or behind closed doors doesn't tell us whether it is non-free or
  142. Free Software.
  143. </p>
  144. <p>
  145. When looking at software we have to distinguish between the software
  146. model and the development model. While the software model describes the
  147. attributes of the software (e.g. free or proprietary) the development
  148. model describes different ways to develop software. As discussed in
  149. detail
  150. in <a href="/freesoftware/enterprise/freesoftwarecompany.html">"What
  151. makes a Free Software company?"</a> the different software development
  152. models are defined independently of the software model and work for both
  153. Free Software and proprietary software. Models that leverage the
  154. advantage of an open and collaborative community can show their full
  155. strength in combination with the Free Software model. However this does
  156. not mean that any program developed in an open, collaborative development
  157. process is Free Software. There are Free Software projects developed by a
  158. single person or a company with little or no outside input. On the other
  159. hand developers of proprietary software have adapted collaborative
  160. development models to fit into their software model, e.g. SAP with its
  161. partnership program.
  162. </p>
  163. <h2>Why we call it Free Software</h2>
  164. <p>
  165. If all these terms describe the same set of programs, why do we at FSFE
  166. insist on using the term Free Software?
  167. </p>
  168. <p>
  169. Free Software is all about your freedom. That's a message we want to get
  170. across loud and clear. Language is important because it frames how people
  171. think about a subject. The different terms focus on different aspects,
  172. even if they describe the same software. Freedom is a core value of Free
  173. Software, and our language reflects this. This makes Free Software the
  174. right choice for FSFE and we invite you
  175. to <a href="/documents/whyfs">follow us</a>.
  176. </p>
  177. <h2 id="fn">Footnotes</h2>
  178. <ol>
  179. <li id="fn1">
  180. <a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/">Copyleft</a> licenses, licenses
  181. designed to protect those rights, are a subclass of Free Software
  182. licenses recognized by the Open Source Initiative and the FSF.
  183. </li>
  184. </ol>
  185. </body>
  186. <timestamp>$Date: 2010-04-23 15:56:18 +0100 (Mon, 23 May 2010) $ $Author: Bjoern Schiessle$</timestamp>
  187. <author id="schiessle" />
  188. <date>
  189. <original content="2012-12-08" />
  190. </date>
  191. </html>