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Free software and open source, is it the same?

It is common that in the world of technology there are confusion with similar terms that sometimes we do not use correctly. A clear example can be to differentiate between “free software” and “open source”.

According to Richard Stallman, both free software and open source pursue  a common goal: to give greater freedom and transparency to the world of software, but they differ in their ways of carrying it out.

Free Software is defined by its ethics. Free Software is not only those programs whose code is open, but it represents all those that respect the essential freedoms of the user. According to the Free Software Foundation (1985), created by Richard Stallman, the four essential freedoms are:

– Freedom to execute the program as desired.

– Freedom to study and change the program.

– Freedom to redistribute copies.

– Freedom to distribute copies of their modified versions to third parties.

The four freedoms have to be applied in all program’s code from the base to the lines that have been added later. In addition, as we have mentioned, the distribution of copies to third parts, with or without modifications, allow it to be done both free of charge or charging a fee.

Open Source, a pragmatic split.

 In 1998, several members of the Free Software community created the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The OSI ethics has ten requirements to fulfill, with we highlight the following:

– Free redistribution: The software license must not prevent it from being freely given or sold as part of a larger distribution.

– Source code: When publishing a program, you must include your complete source code or allow free access to it.

– Derived works: The licenses must allow modifications and derivative works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the original software.

– Integrity of the source code of the author: The distribution of modifications can be prevented only if the distribution of such patches is allowed. It may also be required that derivative works change their name or version number.

– Distribution of the license: The associated rights in the licenses of the programs must apply to all those who redistribute it without needing to request an additional license.

– No discrimination of people or groups.

– The license must not be specific to a product.

– The license must be technologically neutral.


What are the main differences?

The main one is that open source is less strict than free software, so in practice all free software can be classified as open source, although not all open source software has to be free.

Free Software has philosophical differences from Open Source, while the FSF (Free Software Foundation) always prioritizes aspects of an ethical nature, in Open Source, the technical aspects of any moral discussion about licenses are highlighted. rights.

In summary, both movements have notoriously philosophical differences, however, this does not mean a problem, since both Free Software and Open Source Software have offered over the years high quality programs.


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