What is free software?
What is free software? Thanks for asking!
Despite what it might sound like, free software isn’t necessarily free of charge. Here, the word is used with regards to liberty, not price. That’s also why it’s sometimes referred to as “libre software”, to avoid any ambiguity. Perhaps more significant than its definition is what free software stands for. It’s a social and political movement which aims to offer software with no trade secrets, and guaranteed free circulation of source code. Some of the most well-known free software applications are the Firefox web browser, OpenOffice and VLC media player. Examples of non-free programs, also described as proprietary software, are Photoshop, iTunes or Microsoft Windows.
So what sets free software apart from the rest then?
The Free Software Movement was started in the 1980s by former hacker Richard Stallman. Many manufacturers had recently stopped distributing source code and started using restrictive licenses or copyright. This was to prevent competitors from using their software and it became the norm. Stallman announced the GNU project, which consisted of developing a free computer operating system by the same name. The GNU Manifesto set out four essential freedoms that software must have in order to be considered free. Users have to be able to 1) run the program as they wish, for whatever use they wish; 2) study the programme’s source code, and edit it; 3) share exact copies with others; and finally 4) make and distribute edited versions to others.
Is it the same as open source? In under 3 minutes, we answer your questions!
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