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Is Open Source synonymous with free? Let's find out together...

Some of us have, at least for a while, championed free software, using alternative programs for free, and... who's lying! Is open source really synonymous with free?

Us who fight for free software!

In the context of Open Source, we typically refer to Open Source Software (OSS), a type of software designed to have its source code freely accessible to anyone who wishes to view it, modify it, and share it. However, today, this notion is not limited exclusively to software development.

The distinctive feature of this approach is the ability to inspect and make modifications, with enthusiasts and experts collaborating through a process of 'peer review'.

We have already extensively covered in our social media posts (such as in our LinkedIn profile) the features and advantages of adopting Open Source, which we now briefly present in the tabs below.

In this article, we aim to delve deeper into the subject, inspired by a comment from one of our contacts on LinkedIn, in order to gain a more precise understanding of the world of Open Source Software.

When we refer to an Open Source product, we mean a product where the source code is freely available. This is the key distinction: you cannot access the source code of systems like Windows or software like Adobe, whereas you can do so for systems like Android or Linux.

However, it's important to note that just because software is open source doesn't automatically mean it's free. While the source code may be freely usable, the final product may not be. Having access to the source code doesn't necessarily equate to owning the complete software. Transitioning from one to the other requires expertise, time, and sometimes additional resources, such as databases.

This leads to a second distinction: that between Free Software and Open Source. We use the term Free Software when we adhere to the "essential freedoms of users," which include:

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.

  2. The freedom to study how the program works and modify it to suit your needs (with access to the source code as a prerequisite).

  3. The freedom to distribute copies to help others.

  4. The freedom to improve the program and publicly share any modifications made (along with modified versions typically), benefiting the entire community.

Some examples of Free Software include GNU/Linux, LibreOffice, GIMP, and VLC Media Player. As for examples of open-source software, we can mention Mozilla Firefox, Apache HTTP Server, Python, Wordpress, MySQL, and Git.

In conclusion, categorizing software based on their respective licenses can carry risks or create confusion, which is why it's important to fully understand the differences between the concepts of Open Source and Free Software.


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