Open Source vs. Free Software

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All these abstract ethical and economic issues are well and good, but the idea of free software is, to many people, a bit radical, since it seems to espouse ideals that are at odds with the normal course of industry. Some people are even vehemently opposed to the idea; one particularly notable opponent is a man named Bill Gates, who built a software monopoly on extremely proprietary software.

To soften the radical impressions, the concept of open source enters here, as an alternative to the term "free software." The distinction between open source and free software is mostly a matter of semantics and focus, rather than a difference in ideology.

Essentially, free software is about accessibility; to be successful, free software must be accessible to as many parties as possible. In light of this, some people believe that free software can only succeed if it is practiced by the most prolific software producers; since the most prolific software producers are commercial businesses, the idea of free software must be marketed or sold to them.

However, businesses are generally reluctant to get involved in political issues, and some people believe that the ideological connotations of the term "free software" are likely to discourage businesses from participating in the process. Moreover, there is confusion in the term itself—the old free beer vs. freedom issue.

To help resolve these difficulties, some people began using the term "open source" instead of "free software." However, the term "open source" does not really capture the sense of liberty that "free software" does, and so some people (including Stallman) object to open source. The argument here is essentially that the idea is supposed to be radical, so softening the delivery is abandoning the actual ideal.

This is an especially thorny issue, and not one that is likely to go away any time soon. Stallman has published an excellent article on the FSF web site, entitled, "Why ‘Free Software’ is Better Than ‘Open-Source.’" Interested readers should read Stallman's and the FSF's own words on the subject at

My own opinion on the subject is that "open source" is the more realistic, and less emotionally charged term, and so this book will use the term "open source", simply to escape the debate and focus on the technology.

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Tuning and Customizing a Linux System
Tuning and Customizing a Linux System
ISBN: 1893115275
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 159 © 2008-2017.
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