The Difference Between Free Software and Open Source Software

The Difference Between Free Software and Open Source Software

It was over a year ago while working on my masters when the topic came up about software and its various applications in business. As the lecture moved on I soon realized that I still had plenty to learn. Yes, I may have been keenly aware of the advantages and a huge fan of Mozilla’s Firefox as my (Open Source) browser of choice. Despite the fact that I was and am completely behind Mozilla’s mission I soon realized I was blind to what this really meant and how it compared to free software as a whole. You may even be wondering why I’m covering such a topic on a marketing/branding blog meant for tech challenged experts. Shouldn’t we be talking about social media or list building? Maybe but here’s why, even though I work tirelessly to create an awesome online presence for seasoned professionals this is only part of my mission, I’m also here to educate. As you grow your empire it will be important that you are clear and understand certain terms that fill the web world. You can never learn enough and by sharing these type of articles, my hope is to bring what may seem irrelevant into the light so that you have a point of reference in the future.

You may be surprised at the number of Open Source companies out there and all of the solutions they are providing around the world. Both Free Software and Open Source Software are two global movements that have sprung up for the purpose of countering the rapid trend of commercialized proprietary software. You can easily determine what “Open Source” means from its name. The source code of such a software is available to the masses for free, allowing them to see and study it without any cost. Pretty cool, however, the maker of the Open Source Software can specify certain conditions, such as enabling the legal use and distribution of the software. On the other hand, “Free Software” can be used for any purpose as long as the source code in it is not modified. Before studying the main differences between these two software movements, it’s important to study the conditions that constitute whether a certain software is considered open source or free.

Conditions that constitute Open Source Software

For a software to be considered an open source software, it must meet a few conditions. The first three are the core of such a software, because they help differentiate it from similar software. These three conditions are:

– A free redistribution: this means this type of software can be sold or freely given away.

– Source code: it must be included in the software or has to be freely obtainable from third-parties.

– Derived work: this means that the distribution of software modifications have to be allowed.

The next conditions that are almost as important as the first three are:

– No discrimination against certain persons, groups or fields of endeavor: no one, including the commercial users, can be excluded.

– Integrity of the source code: the author has complete rights on licensing. This means that, in some cases, modifications are redistributed only as additional patches.

– Free distribution of license: all the rights attached to the software will apply to all those it is distributed to. This means those parties won’t need another license key to make the software work.

– The license mustn’t restrict other similar software: any other software distributed with this one can be of another kind, not necessarily an open-source one. There is no restriction whatsoever.

Conditions of a Free Software

The conditions a software must meet in order to be called a “Free Software” are:

– Allows a software to be run for any purpose. Therefore the use of a program isn’t limited to a few categories.

– Allows the user to study how the software works and consequently adapt it to his needs.

– The free software can be redistributed to any third-party.

– The freedom a user has to improve the software and also to make those improvements public. His decision will usually benefit the user’s community.

Access to the source code is guaranteed for free software.

The Difference

The biggest difference between a free software and an open source one is their focus. For an open source software, the ability to access its source code is vital for the user. On the other hand, a free source software usually uses the source code as a means to a predetermined end. The basic idea of an open source software is that the source code has to be available for the improvement of that service. Free software has the advantage of being free and also providing four major freedoms to the user.

The critical difference between these two types of software is fundamental: while a free software is superior simply because it is free, an open source software becomes superior because it can be improved. In other words, the development process of open source is open to anybody who wants to modify or improve the source. If you happen to be good at software development or you have breakthrough ideas, you are in the right place to make use of this type of software. (Collaborative innovation, I love it!)

Overall, even if Free Software and Open Source Software are slightly different from one another, they fight an uphill climb with a common enemy: proprietary software. The major downside of propitiatory software is that there are major companies involved in the practice of marketing their services or products as open source in order to attract more customers while still promoting the same or sister products and services as proprietary software which is then sold at a certain price. Even if their main software is promoted as open source, you will still need to pay if you want to benefit from all its features. This could prove an important factor in helping you determine the integrity of certain companies.

It is my belief that the more you know the better equipped you will be in making the decisions that will ultimately affect how much money you make at the end of the day. This is why it is important to know the difference between Free Software and Open Source Software. You may fall into the category of only handling 70 to 90pc of your computer activity online but 100pc of it is only possible due to the software that you have on your computer. As you grow in your endeavors options open up and knowing what certain terms mean will bring you to an informed decision sooner compared to decisions that depend on the input of others. I personally prefer to build my knowledge arsenal bit by bit each day and that is precisely why you need to know (if even on a basic level) the difference between Free Software and Open Source Software. Let me know your thoughts and what you’re curious about, bet I am curious too. There are more business and mind building topics to come.  Blessings ~De


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