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Free Software vs Open Source Software vs Freeware

Open Source is a method of developing software in which Source Code is openly and freely available to use. This is different from Propriety or Closed Source Software where Source Code is not available at all or not available to copy and modify. Open Source Software is generally developed publicly in collaborative way. Linux, Apache, Mozilla Firefox are some of the popular Open Source Software.

Open Source Initiative (OSI)
OSI is a Non-Profit Corporation with prime objective of promoting, educating and formalizing Open Source Software Development. To be considered Open Source, Software must meet the criteria as defined in Open Source definition by Open Source Initiative. The criteria mainly include free redistribution of source code and license. OSI maintains a list of licenses that are considered Open Source. Most prominent of these licenses is GNU General Public License (GPL).

Here is a list of key Open Source Software Packages.

What is Free Software?

Free Software is similar to Open Source. Users must be able to freely use, study, copy, redistribute, modify, and publish modified versions of the software. Here free means Freedom to use than Free in price (as in Freewares). Both Free and Open Source have similar objectives but differ on which term is better to covey these objectives.

Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a Non-Profit organization dedicated to promote development and usage of Free Software. To be considered Free Software, Software must meet Free Software definition as defined by FSF.

What is Freeware?

While Free Software and Open Source Software almost same, Freeware is significantly different. Freeware simply means that software is free of cost to users, and there is no charge. The license does not mean free distribution and use, and there can be conditions to use it for free. For example, Freeware might be free for a limited number of users. Few freewares may not even expose source code to users.


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