The biggest differences between free software and open source software is the price tag. Both are available for download free of charge. But the price tag on Linux is much higher than on Windows or Mac OS X, and the same holds true for Apple’s OS X. So, why is there such a huge disparity between the two?
It is quite simple to see the difference between free software and open source. Free software is developed by a group of people for the benefit of the public, whereas open source is developed by many contributors. However, proprietary add-on software and even partially open source systems find fertile grounds because most of the software development community doesn’t insist on full freedom with its software. This is no accident. Most GNU/Linux users have been introduced to the system via open source development, and the Unix operating system was born from the LAMP set of projects.
That being said, the term free software movement is somewhat misleading because the philosophy of the free software movement goes beyond simple freedom
For starters, the philosophy of the free software movement is not primarily concerned with user freedom. It is, instead, concerned with providing freedom for developers to add new features to the software while keeping the core software free. With that said, most software developers do add new features in the free software movement – usually to provide competitive solutions to their competitor’s products. There is also some software which is developed as part of the general free software community, but has been designed to solve a unique problem that the user is facing and then offers a solution to the user by offering a utility or package that solves that problem.
What is interesting about the free software movement is that it has achieved so much popularity among computer users. This has happened because the underlying idea behind it is based on freedom. People are always trying to gain more freedom, and the free software movement has been the main beneficiary of this movement. Indeed, it might be said that its popularity is mostly due to the fact that it offers a free solution to the problems that many programmers have been facing – problems such as copyright infringement and problems with proprietary platforms.
On the other hand, the opposite of the free software movement is the open source camp.
The main reason for this is the belief that proprietary platforms are bad and should be changed. This might sound like an unpopular viewpoint, but the truth is that there are plenty of programmers who believe that these platforms are bad and need to be changed. This might be a controversial stance, especially given the fact that many people are against the open source philosophy. However, the philosophy does have merit.
One of the most important arguments for the open-source philosophy is the freedom that they offer. As pointed out before, those who are part of the free software movement believe that freedom truly matters and is more important than the amount of money that can be made by developing proprietary software. This might seem like an extreme view, and indeed it is. Yet, this is exactly what many software developers believe. They believe that they should be able to contribute to the development process for free, and this contributes to the overall quality and relevancy of the finished product.
Perhaps the most important difference between the two is the philosophy of free speech, not free beer. It is true that there are some developers who do take this philosophy too far and end up encroaching on the rights of the free-speech advocates. However, this is usually only in reaction to something that the developers of the software had believed in all along. For example, if an open source software developer believes that the software should be free of patent protection, then this person probably doesn’t mind if a rival attempts to use his proprietary technology to steal his ideas.
The differences between free software and the open source camp are often highlighted by those who would benefit from the philosophy of free speech, not free beer.
When developers value the ability to contribute to the development process as much as they do the right to patent the code, then the differences between the two philosophies become less clear. However, if the software developers continue to develop freely and contribute back to the development process as much as they do, then the differences between the two philosophies begin to thin. As the years go by and both camp share the practical benefits that come from having freedom, then perhaps we will see fewer differences between the two camps.