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I'm writing a thesis on Open Source and Free Software. (That's how I got sucked into Linux in the first place.) I've looked at the Open Source Initiative's and the Free Software Foundation's respective definitions and dozens of other sites and books, but I have a hard time articulating the differences to laymen--the real target of the paper. Do any of you know of a site that has a concise explanation of the differences that I could site? Also, I'd be happy if any members or moderators could explain it to me? (I'll even give you a "shot out" in my thesis. )
That's one of the sites I've already cited--as well as the Open Source Initiative's counterpart. I've been pretty thorough researching this, but I'm looking for a really clear description without restating those two definitions--which I think are pretty esoteric for the average user. I'm looking for a side by side comparison, which does not have either the OSS or the FS spin on things. I think the difference between OSS and FS is pretty important but maybe a little inaccessible to average users. That's why so many people simply refer to the two as "open source" when it isn't always appropriate.
Thanks, though. Please feel free to add your own imput, anyone.
I think one main difference is that the Open Source Initiative was
started as a way to avoid the negative connotations of the word,
"Free". The negative connotations came from uninformed managers
thinking "free" means "cheap, worthless, etc.".
Good thought. I hadn't heard of that. As for differences, the one difference that I'm not clear about is the licensing agreements. In Free Software, I believe the code cannot be used in proprietary source programs whereas you can with open source. I believe Open Source has some restrictions on software as well, but I can't remember what. I'm reviewing my "sources" now.
If anyone can think of anything else, feel free to chime in.
Distribution: Slackware, (Non-Linux: Solaris 7,8,9; OSX; BeOS)
After looking over the list of licenses at the OSI web page, it seems
obvious. The OSI has a large list of approved licenses, while the
FSF only has one (the GPL). The GPL is included in the list of
approved licenses by the OSI. From this, I conclude that the OSI
encompases and extends (or limits, based on your point of view)
the FSF's idea of free software. That is, the OSI doesn't put any
philosophical restraints on what the copyright holder may do with
their software, even "allowing" them to allow redistribution in
binary form only (with some caveats). This makes the OSI a little
more free in terms of what a developer may do, but also allows
for future limitations on the code by that same developer or by
some other developer on that same code (someone could
possibly be allowed to only distribute in binary form, effectively
closing it). The FSF seeks to make all code open and free (speech)
forever, including any derivative works based on the GPLed code.
Yes, I read that too. But there is non-GPLed, that is, non-copylefted, Free Software. See this . What's the distinction between non-GPLed Free Software and Open Source under another license assuming neither restricts one of FSF's four basic freedoms?
It should be noted that the Open Source Definition was specifically designed not to exclude the FSF's Free Software definition. See change log items 1.5 and 1.9 for specific examples. This fact was also referred to by ESR in at least one interview, but I don't have a source at the moment (sorry). IMHO, this is a significant point to be brought out in a paper like yours.
My perception is that it's more about names than anything else. If there were any way to chart the differences between what the FSF accepts and what the OSD accepts, you would find about 80-90% overlap. The chief issue seems to be that the OSI insists that "Free Software" is a term unfriendly to businesspeople, while the FSF proclaims that "Open Source" dilutes the issue unacceptably. This is just my opinion, and there are certainly many people who would strongly disagree with it.
My perception is that it's more about names than anything else.
By and large, yes. As you say yourself, there's a ~90% overlap, and in those cases choosing between "Open Source" and "Free Software" is more a statement of your values than anything with technical significance (as long as you say one of them and not "Proprietary").
In Free Software, I believe the code cannot be used in proprietary source programs whereas you can with open source. I believe Open Source has some restrictions on software as well, but I can't remember what. I'm reviewing my "sources" now.
Let's recap the definition of free software: a piece of software is free for a user, iff the user has the freedoms to (0) run the program; (1) copy it; (2) change it; (3) publish changes.
Now, a particular license is a copyleft license if it guarantees that the software in question is free for all users. In particular, GPL is a copyleft license. Obviously, copylefted software can't be used in combination with proprietary software.
But--and this is the kicker--some free software (most of them permissive non-copyleft licenses in FSF terms) allow the user A to sublicense the software, thus making it non-free for user B if B is using it under a non-free license of A's choice.
RMS explains this (in particular with X11 as an example) in one or more audio clips on http://audio-video.gnu.org. I suggest listening to a bunch of his talks.
It's a very interesting subject and I myself researched it pretty thoroughly quite recently. The only few differences I found are the differences in philosophy and also the kind of licenses which are accepted as Open Source and Free Software.
The main and the most important difference seems to be philosophical rather than technical. I personally lean towards Free Software as I think it is the original idea and has a fundamentally stronger ideology that would sustain it in the long run. OSI seems to focus more on the commercial benefits of using Free Software.
I know that it's not of much help for your essay, but I just wanted to offer my perspective.