Free Software or Open Source? (or...)

I think you may be interested in this article by Richard Stallman, founder of GNU, the free software foundation and author of the GPL, among other great accomplishments:


I didn’t re-read it right now, but as I understood it the main difference between Free Software and Open Source Software is that you release Free Software because you believe in Freedom and you release Open Source Software because you think it’s a nice tool to get Crowd Involvement and don’t have to spend so much money on professionals.
So it’s a philosophical difference, while technically there is no real difference (Free Software is always Open Source and Open Source Software (usually) grants (almost) all Freedoms necessary to call it Free Software).

I voted for Free Software, because I believe in the philosophy behind it, but usually I use the term FLOSS as a hypernym for both (the L is important - as “free libre” makes it clear that free is used as in free speech and not as in free beer).


Open Source says it better, It’s open to you to do what you want with it and if you want share it with the rest of the world. Open appeals more to the user to share it’s findings, especially when finding bugs.
Free software always makes you wonder what is meant. Code or payment.


The main difference between the free software movement and the open source community is that free software does not accept any proprietary or locked down system components (not even drivers or codecs) and the open source favors the use of open (but not necessary viral) licenses for software without opposing including some proprietary components if it helps usability.

So describing Fairphone Open OS as free software would be wrong, because all the drivers are closed source. In fact, it is almost impossible to get down-to-the-core free software systems, because almost all firmware is closed-source. Richard Stallman (founder of the free software foundation and genuine hardcore free software guy) is one of the few people in the world who use a computer that runs entirely free software, but that is just not feasible for most people. Look at how the available machines are: http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/endorsement/respects-your-freedom

I would still favor the use of the term free software in general, because it comes with a philosophy that - if not applied like a dogma - makes a lot of sense. So FP Open OS is a Open Source operating system with both free and proprietary components.


I would prefer the term “free open source software”.

“Free software” alone can lead to confusion: Is “free” meant as in “free beer” or as in “freedom”?

1 Like

PS: This video is even better. I especially like the part where he compares freely sharing software/source code to sharing recipes for cooking.
And yes I am ashamed of sharing links to videos about Freedom on Yuobute! :blush:


That’s why it is better to call it “libre” or “freie” software. And referencing freeware as gratis instead of “free”. For a company which states to make fair products or at least are trying to make them as fair as possible free or libre software is the more conseqent choice because it is about being fair to the user while open source only is about letting the user do it by himself what the company promised him to do.

BTW: Since the Open OS is delivered with binary blobs it also isn’t fully open source because you aren’t allowed or able to read important parts of the software.


To be honest, I don’t really understand the poll :slight_smile:

In what regard do you mean whether the community should talk about free or open? Are you referring to the Open OS (where I agree with @cybercow that it is neither)? Or for what do you mean, for where should Fairphone use these terms?
So if I vote here for free or open, to what does it relate?

So I am sorry, but as I said: I am a little lost with the poll here :blush:


It refers to nothing more than personal opinion. I wonder which terms people use/like/prefer and for what reason out of personal curiosity.


Here are explanations of these terms on the FSFE (Free Software Foundation Europe) site:


Open Source code could be non-shareable. For example, all those repos on the internet without explicit license are Open Source but proprietary, because you cannot do anything more than read the code (i.e. no use, modification, nor share freedoms allowed)

I prefer using Free Software. I’m a Debian user for a reason. I believe in freedom, thus I avoid proprietary software and “just Open Source” software all I can.

Regarding Fairphone Open OS, I think it is as free as it can get, due to the binary driver blobs, but far from 100% libre. Android is released under Apache license, and I think Fairphone licensed their modifications under such license (although it seems they forgot some modules…).
The only fully free mobile OS is Replicant, but it isn’t fully functional. Freeing drivers is a hard and thorought work and requires a vast amount of time.


As many of you already mentioned, the difference between free software and open source software is more ethical than practical and it is a great difference.
Free software means not only open source software, but also freedom and free society. A great description of the difference between the two worlds is done by Stallman the creator and the main ambassador of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) the at TED.
Another interesting documentary is Revolution OS that describes the birth and the growth of the GNU/linux OS and of the corresponding software ecosystem.
In my opinion, at the moment what we miss more is the free and open source firmware of the different devices. We have enough great free and open source software, but our hardware i.e. their firmware are closed.
On the PC side, there are two projects that try to obtain a free and open source firmware: coreboot and libreboot.
Even the great Snowden asked to AMD to open their firmwares for their new architecture ryzen.
On the mobile side the situation is even worse and I think this is where fairphone 3 should try to make the best improvements.


I think, this is not quite right. I consider myself as part of the free software movement and I still use a lot of proprietary software for usability. Of course I would like to see every software to be free, but people from the open source side probably also do. We just have a slightly different motivation.

I also met people from the free software movement who prefer non-viral licenses, that means licenses without copyleft and people from the open source movement who prefer copyleft licenses. And of course people with let’s say a “free software mindset” who use the term open source and vice versa.

You are wrong here, I think. From a technical point of view it is really nearly Open Source = Free Software. Both are fixed terms and Open Source does not only mean that you can have a look at the source code, but basically that it is not proprietary.



Yes, you are right, but that’s a historical definition of Open Source. I was referring to the current, practical (re)definition. To me that has more sense to clearly differenciate this two practices (one practical, the other ethical).
This can be probably because of my surroundings, because —as Spaniards— we know the difference between libre (freedom) and gratis (free beer) and didn’t ever need to use the Open Source term with that use. (Plus this term introduced more semantic confusion than the former, IMHO)

P.S.: Please, read the history of both terms before jumping into conclussions for my coment. Free Software was first; Open Source was a new term for trying to remove the free (as in free beer) part of the movement.

1 Like

I have not notice any practical redefinition except from people not knowing what the term actually means and errornously conclude Open Source is the same as “you can look at the source code”. The historical definition is still the definition of the Open Source Initiative and I think of most people involved in Open Source.
I really don’t like the idea of “Some people keep getting it wrong, so now it has a different meaning.”

Please don’t assume I wouldn’t now the history of those terms. :wink: Open Source was not trying to remove the “free as in free beer” part of the movement. They were just trying to set a different focus. And well, maybe they removed the idea of freedom in parts of the movement. But in practice, Open Source Software grants the same freedom to the user as Free Software. Actually Open Source was invented as kind of a marketing name for Free Software. It was never meant to “only grant access to the source code”.


I didn’t assume such thing. In fact, I assumed you know that, but because we are in a forum I included the P.S. for those of our readers that could have issues understanding my comment. Sorry for the confusion.

As a lingüistics-inclined person, I know that terms and words change over time with use, commonly with terms that can be semantically reinterpreted (like that), and don’t judge that as “erroneous”. Nobody can do anything against that fact, not even the Open Source Initiative nor the European Commision, because languages change (as human do) or we would be probably talking in latin here.
I don’t know what your mother tongue is, but I’m sure you can find a lot of words in your language that historically meant another thing.

Enough. I won’t have more terminology arguments here with you. I already stated that you were right about the original definition. Let’s keep loving both Open Source and Free Software, :slight_smile:


Latin :heart_eyes: Partes programmationis aperti liberique. :grin:

1 Like

The article Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software was quite convincing for me. To boil it down to one sentence:

Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.

From my experience this makes sence. Whenever people speak about “open source” they just mean that you can take a look into the source code. The more important topic why everybody should have the right to take a look into the source code seems to be secondary-rank.

Term “Free Software” argues differently: firstly we speak about what we want (user liberation) and then what we need for this (open source as one requirement).


Ok. I agree. :slight_smile:

Post must be at least 20 characters

Ok, it’s about time… Free Software Song ! :smile:


This topic was automatically closed 182 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.