The 2% discussion - "Free Software" or "Open Source Software"

Carmen Bianca Bakker carmenbianca at
Thu Nov 16 17:29:15 UTC 2017

Jonas Oberg schreef op do 16-11-2017 om 16:03 [+0100]:
> That's a popular stance, but I don't believe it's justified. In either case,
> if you hear someone talking about Open Source, you can not, from the term
> alone, determine whether that person ascribes to it a moral stance or
> not. You need to listen to what they're actually saying.

For individuals, yes, probably, maybe.  For organisations, however,
their choice in public wordings is often telling.  But then, I suppose
it's more difficult to prescribe a moral stance to an organistion.
Their actions often speak louder.

But empirically, I find that organisations and individuals who make an
effort to say Free Software truly do care about ethics more than, say,
Open Source hipsters at GitHub (which is itself proprietary and

> If they're talking about Open Source as a development paradigm alone, it
> might sometimes be prudent to remind them about our ethics. The same holds
> if someone talks about Free Software as a development paradigm alone.

I think it's quite valuable to talk about Open Source as a development
paradigm.  "Free Software" doesn't work quite so well there, because the
ethics of Free Software don't necessarily apply to the way in which one
writes programs.  Open Source fits well because it emphasises the
publicness of the methodology.

Free Software (read also: OSS) is generally written with a method (the
aforementioned Open Source methodology) you don't find elsewhere.  You
have the code public, the discussions public, and anybody can publicly
submit code.  This applies to both the cathedral and the bazaar.
And---in my personal opinion---the public nature of this work encourages
much better practices and behaviour than one would find in non-free
software development.

Of course you can write Free Software without the previous methodology,
but it's common enough, and nigh-exclusive to Free Software.

Yours sincerely,

Carmen Bianca Bakker
Technical Intern
Free Software Foundation Europe e.V.
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