Is Open Source Software Similar to Free Software!


Concepts and types of softwares and applications principally varied. They present multiple ideas and support many technologies. Users becoming confused between those softwares, they don’t know what to select and which application will support their needs. The idea of open source and free software is causing a huge confusion for IT people. In this article, a simple clearance of the differences will be explained.

Open source

A simple definition of open source is software with source code, which
allows programmers to freely change in the codes according to their needs. And
they can use it for their own purposes. On the other hand they can distribute
it to others to share knowledge.

For deeper understanding
of what open source is, you need to know that open source programs featured with the following freedoms:

  • Freedom to run the program, for any purpose
  • Freedom to change in the program codes to
    reach your needs
  • Freedom to make copies and distribute to others
  • Freedom to restructure the software and release it to the
    public. (Chisnall, 2007)

Open source software is always available with zero price, which is
reflecting the reality of source code availability. Open source initiative
developed the open source definition with ten principles for a software to be
considered as open source software, as following:

  1. Free redistribution – the license must not restrict
    any user from selling or giving away the software.
  2. Source code – the software code must be available with
    compiled form
  3. Derived works – modifications and distributions must
    be allowed in the license the same as the original software
  4. Integrity of the author’s source code – The license
    might restrict source code distribution in modified form only if the license
    allow the distribution of patch files with the source code to allow modifying
    the program at the build time.
  5. No discrimination against persons or groups – The
    license must not discriminate against persons or groups
  6. No discrimination against fields of endeavor – The
    license must not discriminate anybody from making use of the program in
    specific field
  7. Distribution of license – The program rights must
    apply to whom the program is redistributed without the need to execute another
  8. License must not be specific to a product – The rights
    of the program must not depend on the program’s being a part of specific
    software distribution
  9. License must not restrict other software – The license
    must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with
    the licensed software
  10. License must be technology-neutral – No
    provision of the license maybe predicated on any individual technology or
    style. (Drake, 2017)

Differences between free and open

The major
difference between free open source and free software is their approach. Open
source is providing a source code for others to use, while the free software
does not come with open code. It allows you to use the program without paying
money, but you can’t use the source code.

The basic idea
of the open source is that the availability of the code makes better product
with more features and becomes superior. But the free software approach believes
that a program that provides the user with the four freedoms is not superior and
will not be unique from other developed programs at the same basic source code.
(Chisnall, 2007)

Free software programmers
restrict their intellectual property rights to the software and provide the
software on a "take it as it is" basis, in contrast to open source, which
has far less licensing terms limitations and allows users to modify the product
if they so desire. (Golden, 2004)

Open source for successful business

For many
programmers, the importance of Open Source software can be noticed in business
field.  A programmer can make a lot of money
through developing free software. But programmer must be clever enough to find
an income producing method that works well with customers.

But keep
in mind, competition among Open Source developers may be even severer than
among profitable ones. This competition can only result in producing better
software, which will ultimately be the real benefit of Open Source. If you
decided to join the Open Source movement, be ready to take advantage of offers
that may come from surprising sources. Just keep an open mind and the
opportunities will come. (Swan, 2001)


conclusion, the two softwares are varied with their main approach. Free
Software programmers believe that freedom links to specific value,
but Open Source programmers believe that freedom leads to achieve
superior value. However, both agree that software freedom is very important,
but with different methods.

Related Information

About the Author

Manar Hilal Al-Shaqsi, Ministry of Health, Network and Infrastructure Department, Email,


Chisnall, D. (2007, March 16). Free Software Versus Open Source. Retrieved from

Drake, M. (2017, October 30). The Differences between Free and Open source Software. Retrieved from

Golden, B. (2004, December 23). The Source of Open Source. Retrieved from

Swan, T. (2001, April 1). Open Source for Open Minds. Retrieved from

Common Questions on FOSS

There is no single dedicated entity that is responsible for organizing or developing FOSS. Instead, there are a number of organizations like the “Free Software Foundation” (FSF) that has been supporting the free software movement since 1985 and the “Open Source Initiative” (OSI) that has been promoting open source software since 1998.Although the fundamental philosophy of the FSF and OSI movements are different, they share the same space and cooperate on practical grounds like software development, rally against code closure, and stand against software patenting.
The FOSS development model has become possible only after the appearance of the Internet and the communication expansion that has ensued from it. FOSS software can be developed with any methodology and a well know analogy is the cathedral and bazaar, which was first coined by Eric Raymond in 1996 and has been since then widely quoted when the FOSS development model is contrasted with of the proprietary software. Proprietary software development is similar to the way a cathedral is built in the past. Small groups of skilled workers judiciously worked out the design and everything was constructed in a single effort. Once built, the cathedral was complete and little further modification was made. Proprietary Software was traditionally built in a similar fashion.
Once released, the program was considered finished and a little modification was subsequently carried out on it. In contrast, FOSS development is more likened to the organic way a bazaar grows. Initial bazaar traders come, establish their structures, and begin business. Subsequent traders come and establish their own structures, and the bazaar grows in what initially appears to be a chaotic fashion. Traders are concerned primarily with building a minimally functional structure so that they can begin trading. New features are added later as circumstances arise. In a similar fashion, FOSS development starts highly unstructured. Developers release minimal functional code to the public and then modify their programs based on the feedback received from the user community.
Other developers may join later and build upon the existing code. Over time, a fully-fledged operating system or a complete suite of applications develop and expand continuously.As a result, and in contrast to propriety software, FOSS offers the opportunity for a form of knowledge production based on peer collaboration and community-based innovation.

Background on FOSS

There are two types of software licensing : “proprietary and free open source”. The former imposes restrictions conditions on running the software subject to the sole discretion of the software owner, often preventing users from access to the code, and thus the ability to modify it if needs arise. In contrast, the latter grants users the right to access, distribute, modify, and run the software code.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) defines software as a type of software whose license gives users the freedom to run, share, study, and modify it. In other words, the term “free” here does not imply “free of charge” (i.e. gratis), but implies “freedom” in the four following essential aspects:

  1. Run: The ability to use the program for any purpose.
  2. Distribute: The ability to copy and distribute the program to other people.
  3. Study: The ability to study the flow of the program code and understand the technology behind it.
  4. Modify: The ability to update, change, and improve the software code.

In addition to offering freedom, FOSS is widely acknowledged as providing a superior security model over its proprietary counterpart, reduces vendor lock-in, boosts growth of local IT skills, increases software customization and localization, and leads to fast adoption of new technologies due to its low installation and running cost.