Difference between open source and free software
Open source software vs free software:
When speaking of software, one has to cover a very broad scope. There are various types of software designed for diverse purposes and functions. Two such types of software are open source software and free software. Though they share several similarities, they are two different types of software. Yet, many people find it difficult to differentiate between the two kinds of software applications. Therefore, this article strives to provide the reader with brief and simple descriptions of each of the two types of software, with a brief paragraph on their differences joining afterwards. Finally, a summary will be added so that it would be helpful for the reader to keep in mind several important facts about the two kinds of software applications.
What is open source software?
First of all, let us see what is meant by open source software. It is often called by its shortened name; OSS. Open source software is computer software that is accessible in source code form. The source code is a right which is generally held in reserve for copyright holders and is only provided under open source license. Open source license is a software license which allows the user to study, alter, and develop the software. Sometimes, it also permits the user to distribute the software. However, in open source software, the source code is freely available. Speaking of the history of open source software, it was first launched 1983 under the first free software movement, and under the name ‘free software’. But, it was in 1998, as suggested by a group of personnel, the term ‘open source software’ (OSS) was used to replace the old term ‘free software’. The term or the label; ‘OSS’ appeared of a strategy session held on April 07, 1998 in Palo Alto. Moreover, open source software was recognized by many people as more secure, transparent, affordable, perpetual, localized and interoperable. Besides, open source software is often improved in a public manner, and in a shared way. In conclusion, several widely used open source products would include GNU/Linux, Apache HTTP Server, Mozilla Firefox and osCommerce.
What is free software?
Then, what is free software? Free software; or as commonly referred, libre software, is software that can be studied, used and customized without restriction. Further, people cannot make alterations to the software though they would be allowed to redistribute it without restriction. That is to say, the developments to the programme can only be done by a closed group of individuals, small collaborative groups and companies. As scholars depict, the word ‘free’ in free software doesn’t associate with monetary terms. It is referred to ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’. Yet, however, free software is often available for free, but not bound to such restriction. The redistribution of the software may or may not cost money. Moreover, unlike the open source software, free software does not provide the source code. It generally remains confined to the manufacturers. Speaking of the history of the product, the free software movement was first introduced by Richard Stallman in 1983 to benefit the computer users by providing them with software freedom. In addition, he founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985. It was from 1998 onwards that other terms which are seemingly interchangeable with free software came into practice. One such was open source software. Moreover, there are different categories of free software and they would include ‘public domain software’, ‘copy-left licenses’ and ‘permissive licenses’. To conclude, few best known instances for free software would include Linux Kernel, Apache web server, and GNU Compiler Collection.
What is the difference between free software and open source software?
Now, let us talk about the similarities and dissimilarities between open source and free software. As one can notice by examining web definitions, both types of software are defined mostly alike. The difference lies only in the emphasis. Thus, the major difference would be that open source software are introduced to provide the user with accessible source code while free software are designed to benefit the user with freedom. Next, as the name suggests, open source software permits its user to access the source code of the software whereas the free software does not generally disclose it. Further, the user of the open source software can make necessary alterations to the software while the free software user cannot make such modifications to the programme. However, both software applications allow the users to use, study, and distribute without restrictions. Moreover, open source software is often free of charge whilst the free software is most of the time free.
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