Chapter 5. Difference between "Open Source" and "Free Software".

Table of Contents

In for Free Beer

The term "free software" was coined by Richard Stallman, and is associated with the Free Software Foundation. The term "open source" was coined by Eric Raymond and is advocated by him and other people at the Open Source Initiative. Nevertheless, those who consider themselves in either camp, much less those who use either or both terms, do not necessarily hold the opinions of these figures. Therefore I will not globally associate them with the "free software movement" or the "open source movement" because both include many users and developers with heterogeneous opinions on the subject. Moreover, they are pretty much one and the same.

Nevertheless, it is important to summarise their opinions, because they are recurring in many places.


Proprietary software is legal but illegitimate and immoral. Manufacturing and using proprietary software causes a lot of unhappy social and psychological side-effects. The knowledge that a software cannot be shared causes people to become reluctant to sharing, which is a natural and good part of living in a human society. The inability of people to modify software for their own needs, makes them feel helpless, and at the mercy of external software.

Free software, on the other hand, is the natural conclusion derived from the basic facts of information, computing and software, and is highly moral. People, companies and other organizations can modify it, customise it and distribute it for their own use should the need arise, and so it actually benefits them.