Open Source vs. Sourceware

Open source does not mean any software that is accompanied by its source, albeit many people who are new to the term would be tempted to think that. It is possible to write non-OS software while accompanying it with the source.

Examples for such cases are:

1. The Microsoft Visual C++ Run-Time Library and the Microsoft Foundation Classes, that are accompanied with their source.

2. xv - a very popular shareware image viewer and manipulator for X-Windows that has been distributed with its source code.

3. qmail - a popular mail server whose source code is available and can be deployed free of charge, but its licence specifies that it is illegal to distribute modified binaries (at least outside the organization) This is enough to make it non-open-source, but it is still a very popular program.

None of these packages qualify as free software, but they are all accompanied with the source. There are many others around. A quick search on Freshmeat will find many such packages.

In order for a program to be open-source it needs to be free of various restrictions as specified in the open-source definition. To be free software as well, it must be also free of some other restrictions. [3]

I believe the term open-source is a bit dangerous in this regard. Then again, free software may not automatically be associated with freedom and liberty, so it isn't perfect either. But I guess finding a description that accurately describes it in a short space is not very possible, so these terms will have to do.



[3] In a recent query given to an Israeli Defense Force Official by an Israeli MP, the former interpreted open-source as software that the IDF has access to its source. This is an even more radical deviation from the correct meaning.