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Difference Between Open Source and Free Software

open-source-initiativeOpen Source vs. Free Software

Open Source Software and Free Software are the two movements that have sprung up to counter the rapid trend of commercialized proprietary software. From the name ‘Open Source’, you can already deduce that the source code of the software is freely available for other people to see and study. In truth, the scale of open source software has more provisions than just having a visible source code. There are a lot of definitions for Free Software, the most common of which is ‘freeware’, or software that you do not have to pay for to use. However, the Free Software movement specifies that the freedom in free software extends far beyond the cost of the software. Basically, a user can do anything to Free Software, as long as the resulting software is also free.

Free Software is a stricter code sharing method compared to Open Source, which allows the maker of the code to specify certain conditions, to enable the legal use and distribution of the software. The coder of Open Source software can specify whether a user is allowed to redistribute the modified code or not. This is not possible with Free Software, as it specifically indicates that the modified code derived from Free Software, should also be released as Free Software.

Another aspect that Free Software advocates point out about Open Source software, is the practice of some companies to market their software as Open Source, but having the majority of the functions as proprietary software sold at a price. So, even though the main software is licensed as Open Source software, you will still need to pay in order to get the full functionality. Free Software is not allowed to work with proprietary software, thereby eliminating the possibility of the term Free Software being used in a misleading manner.

Although there are major factions in the fight for free and open source software, they are still united against the common enemy, proprietary software. The specifics of each may differ drastically, but the aim of providing free and extensible software is common to both.


1. Free Software is Open Source Software, but Open Source software may not necessarily be Free Software.

2. Open Source allows the coder more control over his program compared to Free Software.

3. Open Source software can work with other proprietary software, while Free Software does not allow the same.

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  1. excellent differences explanation,i came to know a lot from this ‘different ‘ site,thanx

  2. dude thank you realy very much
    because sumita arora IP class 12 book is realy confusing about this matter
    and is somewhat wrong that’s what i felt
    the difference are realy awesome!
    sumita arora books need to change!

  3. sir, I want to tell thanks to you because i know the diferent between in them with the help of you. I read more of books to know it

  4. Great explanation! Thank you so much!

  5. Hi,

    I’d like to correct a major mistake in your article: What you describe as free software is actually copyleft.

    You’re thinking of the GNU GPL, which requires that any derivative works of a covered work must be distributed under the GNU GPL as well. Free software also includes many non-copyleft licenses – the MIT license, the BSD license, and even the WTFPL license are all considered free, but are not as encouraged by the Free Software Foundation because they allow derivatives to be distributed as non-free software.

    Please rewrite this article as a comparison of copyleft and permissive licenses, or rewrite it to talk about the differences between the two movements that basically do the same work for different reasons.

  6. I told marktraceur about this article in #fsf. The article contains misinformation. Free software can, indeed, work with proprietary software. LibreOffice is a prime example of this. In contrast, Microsoft has dragged its feet in implementing Open Document Format for its word processor. And, let’s not forget that Apple’s proprietary system, OS X, is certified Unix built on free software. I hope this helps.

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