FREE AND OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE (FOSS) is computer software that can be
classified as both free software and open-source software . That is,
anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software
in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are
encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is
in contrast to proprietary software , where the software is under
restrictive copyright and the source code is usually hidden from the
The benefits of using FOSS can include decreasing software costs,
increasing security and stability (especially in regard to malware ),
protecting privacy , and giving users more control over their own
hardware. Free, open-source operating systems such as
BSD are widely utilized today, powering millions of
servers , desktops , smartphones (e.g. Android ), and other devices.
Free software licenses and open-source licenses are used by many
software packages . The open-source software movement is an online
social movement behind widespread production and adoption of FOSS.
* 1 History
* 2 Overview
* 3 Usage
* 3.1 Benefits over proprietary software
Privacy and security
* 3.1.2 Personal control, customizability and freedom
* 3.1.3 No costs
* 3.1.4 Quality, collaboration and efficiency
* 3.2 Drawbacks to proprietary software
* 3.2.1 Security and user-support
* 3.2.2 Hard- and software compatibility
* 3.2.3 Bugs and missing features
* 3.2.4 Less guarantees of development
* 3.2.5 Missing applications
* 3.2.6 Technical skills and user-friendliness
* 3.3 Adoption by governments
* 3.4 Adoption by supranational unions and international
* 4 Production
* 5 Issues and incidents
* 5.1 GPLv3 controversy
* 5.2 Skewed prioritization, ineffectiveness and egoism of
* 5.3 Commercial ownership of open-source software
* 5.4 Legal cases
* 5.4.1 Oracle v.
* 6 As part/driver of a new socioeconomic model
* 6.1 Benkler\'s new economy
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 9.1 Sources
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
History of free and open-source software
History of free and open-source software
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In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to 1980s, it was common for computer
users to have the source code for all programs they used, and the
permission and ability to modify it for their own use.
including source code, was commonly shared by individuals who used
computers. Most companies had a business model based on hardware
sales, and provided or bundled software with hardware, free of charge.
Organizations of users and suppliers were formed to facilitate the
exchange of software; see, for example, SHARE and
By the late 1960s, the prevailing business model around software was
changing. A growing and evolving software industry was competing with
the hardware manufacturer's bundled software products; rather than
funding software development from hardware revenue, these new
companies were selling software directly. Leased machines required
software support while providing no revenue for software, and some
customers able to better meet their own needs did not want the costs
of software bundled with hardware product costs. In
United States vs.
IBM , filed 17 January 1969, the government charged that bundled
software was anticompetitive. While some software might always be
free, there would be a growing amount of software that was for sale
only. In the 1970s and early 1980s, some parts of the software
industry began using technical measures (such as only distributing
binary copies of computer programs ) to prevent computer users from
being able to use reverse engineering techniques to study and
customize software they had paid for. In 1980, the copyright law was
extended to computer programs in the
United States —previously,
computer programs could be considered ideas, procedures, methods,
systems, and processes, which are not copyrightable.
Richard Stallman , longtime member of the hacker community
MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory , announced the GNU
project , saying that he had become frustrated with the effects of the
change in culture of the computer industry and its users. Software
development for the
GNU operating system
GNU operating system began in January 1984, and
Software Foundation (FSF) was founded in October 1985. An
article outlining the project and its goals was published in March
1985 titled the
GNU Manifesto . The manifesto included significant
explanation of the GNU philosophy, Free
Software Definition and
"copyleft " ideas.
Linux kernel , started by
Linus Torvalds , was released as freely
modifiable source code in 1991. Initially,
Linux was not released
under a free or open-source software license. However, with version
0.12 in February 1992, he relicensed the project under the GNU General
Public License . Much like Unix, Torvalds' kernel attracted the
attention of volunteer programmers.
BSD and Net
BSD (both derived from 386
BSD ) were released as free
software when the
USL v. BSDi lawsuit was settled out of court in
BSD forked from Net
BSD in 1995. Also in 1995, The Apache
HTTP Server , commonly referred to as Apache, was released under the
Apache License 1.0 .
In 1997, Eric Raymond published
The Cathedral and the Bazaar , a
reflective analysis of the hacker community and free software
principles. The paper received significant attention in early 1998,
and was one factor in motivating Netscape Communications Corporation
to release their popular
Netscape Communicator Internet suite as free
software . This code is today better known as Mozilla
Netscape's act prompted Raymond and others to look into how to bring
the FSF's free software ideas and perceived benefits to the commercial
software industry. They concluded that FSF's social activism was not
appealing to companies like Netscape, and looked for a way to rebrand
the free software movement to emphasize the business potential of
sharing and collaborating on software source code. The new name they
chose was "open source", and quickly
Bruce Perens , publisher Tim
Linus Torvalds , and others signed on to the rebranding.
Open Source Initiative was founded in February 1998 to encourage
use of the new term and evangelize open-source principles.
Open Source Initiative sought to encourage the use of the
new term and evangelize the principles it adhered to, commercial
software vendors found themselves increasingly threatened by the
concept of freely distributed software and universal access to an
application's source code . A
Microsoft executive publicly stated in
2001 that "open source is an intellectual property destroyer. I can't
imagine something that could be worse than this for the software
business and the intellectual-property business." This view perfectly
summarizes the initial response to FOSS by some software corporations.
However, while FOSS has historically played a role outside of the
mainstream of private software development, companies as large as
Microsoft have begun to develop official open-source presences on the
Internet. IBM, Oracle,
Google and State Farm are just a few of the
companies with a serious public stake in today's competitive
open-source market. There has been a significant shift in the
corporate philosophy concerning the development of free and
open-source software (FOSS).
Alternative terms for free software
Free and open source software is an umbrella term for software that
is free and open source software . Free and open source software is
provided free of charge, allows the user to inspect the source code,
and provides a relatively high level of control of the software's
functions compared to proprietary software .
According to the Free
Software Foundation, "Nearly all open source
software is free software. The two terms describe almost the same
category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally
different values." Thus, the
Open Source Initiative considers many
free software licenses to also be open-source. These include the
latest versions of the FSF's three main licenses: the GPL, the Lesser
General Public License (LGPL), and the GNU Affero General Public
License (AGPL). Thus, terminology of free and open source software is
intended to be neutral on these philosophical disagreements.
There are a number of related terms and abbreviations for free and
open source software (FOSS or F/OSS) or free/libre and open source
Richard Stallman's Free
Software Definition , adopted by the Free
Software Foundation (FSF), defines free software as a matter of
liberty, not price. The earliest known publication of the definition
of his free software idea was in the February 1986 edition of the
FSF's now-discontinued GNU's Bulletin publication. The canonical
source for the document is in the philosophy section of the GNU
Project website. As of August 2017, it is published there in 40
Open Source Definition is used by the
Open Source Initiative to
determine whether a software license qualifies for the organization's
insignia for open-source software . The definition was based on the
Software Guidelines , written and adapted primarily by
Bruce Perens . Perens did not base his writing on the four freedoms
of free software from the Free
Software Foundation , which were only
later available on the web. Perens subsequently stated that he felt
Eric Raymond's promotion of open source unfairly overshadowed the Free
Software Foundation's efforts and reaffirmed his support for free
software. In the following 2000s he spoke about
Open source again.
Linux adoption ,
Free software § Adoption , and
Open-source software § Adoption
BENEFITS OVER PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE
Privacy And Security
Open-source software security ,
Surveillance capitalism ,
Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present) , and
Manufacturers of proprietary, closed-source software are sometimes
pressured to building in backdoors or other covert, undesired features
into their software. Instead of having to trust software vendors
users of FOSS can inspect and verify the source code themselves and
can put trust on a community of volunteers and users. As proprietary
code is typically hidden from public view only the vendors themselves
and hackers may be aware of any vulnerabilities in them while FOSS
involves as many people as possible for exposing bugs quickly.
Personal Control, Customizability And Freedom
Users of FOSS benefit from the freedoms to making unrestricted use,
study, copy, modify, and redistribute such software. If they would
like to change the functionality of software they can bring about
changes to the code and, if they wish, distribute such modified
versions of the software or often − depending on the software's
decision making model and its other users − even push or request
such changes to be made via updates to the original software.
FOSS by definition is free of charge although donations are often
encouraged. This also allows users to better test and compare
Collaboration And Efficiency
See also: § Bugs and missing features
FOSS allows for better collaboration among various parties and
individuals with the goal of developing the most efficient software
for its users or use-cases while proprietary software is typically
meant to generate profits . Furthermore in many cases more
organizations and individuals contribute to such projects than to
proprietary software. It has been shown that technical superiority is
typically the primary reason why companies choose open source
software. Companies might build in artificial barriers,
inefficiencies or undesired functionality to increase monetary return.
DRAWBACKS TO PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE
Security And User-support
Common good ,
Public participation , and Proactive cyber
defence § Measures
According to Linus\'s Law the more people who can see and test a set
of code, the more likely any flaws will be caught and fixed quickly.
While this benefits from having the source code made public high
levels of participation aren't guaranteed. Having a grouping of full
time professionals behind a commercial product can in some cases be
superior to FOSS. There also can be undesired functionality be
built intentionally into FOSS and not get detected or fixed − e.g.
due to no or few users checking the source code, changes to the
software getting denied or the source code being hardly readable.
Furthermore publicized source code might make it easier for hackers
to find vulnerabilities in it and write exploits. This however assumes
that such malicious hackers are more effective than white hat hackers
which responsibly disclose or help fix the vulnerabilities, that no
code leaks or exfiltrations occur and that reverse engineering of
proprietary code is a hindrance of significance for malicious hackers.
In general it can be found that FOSS is more secure and has good
user-support with some exceptions of specific − especially niche or
obsolete − software solutions.
Software incompatibility and System requirements
Often FOSS is not compatible with proprietary hardware or specific
software. This is often due to manufacturers obstructing FOSS such as
by not disclosing the interfaces or other specifications needed for
members of the FOSS movement to write drivers for their hardware −
for instance as they wish customers to only run their own proprietary
software or as they might benefit from partnerships.
Bugs And Missing Features
See also: § Quality, collaboration and efficiency
While FOSS can be superior to proprietary equivalents in terms of
software features and stability in many cases FOSS has more unfixed
bugs and missing features when compared to similar commercial
software. This varies per case and usually depends on the level of
interest and participation in a FOSS project. Furthermore unlike with
typical commercial software missing features and bugfixes can be
implemented by any party that has the relevant motivation, time and
skill to do so.
Less Guarantees Of Development
There is often less certainty in FOSS projects gaining the required
resources / participation for continued development than commercial
software backed by companies. However companies also often abolish
projects for being unprofitable and often large companies rely on and
hence co-develop open source software.
As the FOSS operating system distributions of GNU/
Linux has a lower
market share of end users there are also fewer applications available.
Technical Skills And User-friendliness
Linux may require more effort or technical knowledge to set up
and maintain. As many GNU/
Linux users make extensive use of the
command-line many applications lack user-friendliness such as a GUI .
ADOPTION BY GOVERNMENTS
Main article: Adoption of free and open-source software by public
institutions See also:
National security , Cyber
emergency response team , and
Global public good This list is
incomplete ; you can help by expanding it .
The Government of
Kerala , India, announced its official support
for free/open-source software in its State IT Policy of 2001, which
was formulated after the first-ever free software conference in India,
Freedom First!, held in July 2001 in Trivandrum, the capital of
Kerala. In 2009, Government of
Kerala started the International Centre
for Free and Open Source
ICFOSS ). In March 2015 the Indian
government announced a policy on adoption of open source software.
In the German
City of Munich , conversion of 15,000 PCs and laptops
Microsoft Windows-based operating systems to a
Linux environment called
LiMux spanned the ten years of 2003 to 2013.
After successful completion of the project, more than 80% of all
computers were running Linux.
In 2004, a law in
Venezuela (Decree 3390) went into effect,
mandating a two-year transition to open source in all public agencies.
As of June 2009, this ambitious transition was still under way.
Malaysia launched the "Malaysian Public Sector Open Source Software
Program", saving millions on proprietary software licenses until 2008.
In 2005 the Government of
Peru voted to adopt open source across
all its bodies. The 2002 response to Microsoft's critique is
available online. In the preamble to the bill, the Peruvian government
stressed that the choice was made to ensure that key pillars of
democracy were safeguarded: "The basic principles which inspire the
Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state of law." In
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced its formal
adoption of the OpenDocument standard for all Commonwealth entities.
In 2006, the Brazilian government has simultaneously encouraged the
distribution of cheap computers running
Linux throughout its poorer
communities by subsidizing their purchase with tax breaks.
In April 2008,
Ecuador passed a similar law, Decree 1014, designed
to migrate the public sector to Libre Software.
In February 2009, the
White House moved its website
Linux servers using
Drupal for content management. In August 2016,
United States government announced a new federal source code
policy which mandates that at least 20% of custom source code
developed by or for any agency of the federal government be released
as open-source software (OSS). In addition, the policy requires that
all source code be shared between agencies. The public release is
under a three-year pilot program and agencies are obliged to collect
data on this pilot to gauge its performance. The overall policy aims
to reduce duplication, avoid vendor 'lock-in', and stimulate
collaborative development. A new website code.gov provides "an online
collection of tools, best practices, and schemas to help agencies
implement this policy", the policy announcement stated. It also
provides the "primary discoverability portal for custom-developed
software intended both for Government-wide reuse and for release as
OSS". As yet unspecified OSS licenses will be added to the code.
In March 2009, the French Gendarmerie Nationale announced it will
totally switch to Ubuntu by 2015. The Gendarmerie began its transition
to open source software in 2005 when it replaced
Microsoft Office with
OpenOffice.org across the entire organization.
In January 2010, the Government of
Jordan announced a partnership
Ingres Corporation (now named Actian), an open source database
management company based in the United States, to promote open-source
software use, starting with university systems in Jordan.
In September 2014, the
Uganda National Information Technology
Authority (NITA-U) announced a call for feedback on an Open Source
Strategy clear: right; margin: 0.5em 0 0.8em 1.4em; width:25%;
padding: 10px; border: 1px solid #aaa; font-size: 88%;
background-color: #F9F9F9;"> "We migrated key functions from Windows
Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and
reliable -- one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed
to patch, adjust, or adapt, we could." Official statement of the
United Space Alliance , which manages the computer systems for the
International Space Station
International Space Station (ISS), regarding why they chose to switch
from Windows to
Linux on the ISS.
In 2017, the
European Commission stated that "EU institutions should
become open source software users themselves, even more than they
already are" and listed open source software as one of the nine key
drivers of innovation, together with big data , mobility, cloud
computing and the internet of things .
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ISSUES AND INCIDENTS
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this template message )
While copyright is the primary legal mechanism that FOSS authors use
to ensure license compliance for their software, other mechanisms such
as legislation, patents, and trademarks have implications as well. In
response to legal issues with patents and the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA), the Free
Software Foundation released version 3
of its GNU Public License in 2007 that explicitly addressed the DMCA
and patent rights.
After the development of the
GNU GPLv3 in 2007, the FSF (as copyright
holder of many pieces of the GNU system) updated many of the GNU
programs' licenses from GPLv2 to GPLv3. On the other hand, the
adoption of the new GPL version was heavily discussed in the FOSS
ecosystem, several projects decided against upgrading. For instance
the linux kernel , the
AdvFS , Blender , and
as also the
VLC media player
VLC media player decided against adopting the GPLv3.
Apple , a user of GCC and a heavy user of both DRM and patents,
switched the compiler in its
Xcode IDE from GCC to
Clang , which is
another FOSS compiler but is under a permissive license . LWN
speculated that Apple was motivated partly by a desire to avoid GPLv3.
The Samba project also switched to GPLv3, so Apple replaced Samba in
their software suite by a closed-source, proprietary software
SKEWED PRIORITIZATION, INEFFECTIVENESS AND EGOISM OF DEVELOPERS
Issue tracking system
Leemhuis criticizes the prioritization of skilled developers who −
instead of fixing issues in popular applications and desktop
environments − create new, mostly redundant software to gain fame
He also criticizes notebook manufacturers for only optimizing their
own products privately or creating workarounds instead of helping fix
the actual causes of the many issues with GNU/
Linux on notebooks such
as the unnecessary power consumption.
COMMERCIAL OWNERSHIP OF OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE
Mergers have affected major open-source software. Sun Microsystems
MySQL AB , owner of the popular open-source MySQL
database, in 2008.
Oracle in turn purchased Sun in January, 2010, acquiring their
copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Thus, Oracle became the owner of
both the most popular proprietary database and the most popular
open-source database. Oracle's attempts to commercialize the
MySQL database have raised concerns in the FOSS community.
Partly in response to uncertainty about the future of MySQL, the FOSS
community forked the project into new database systems outside of
Oracle's control. These include
Percona , and Drizzle . All
of these have distinct names; they are distinct projects and can not
use the trademarked name MySQL.
Oracle V. Google
In August, 2010, Oracle sued
Google , claiming that its use of Java
in Android infringed on Oracle's copyrights and patents. The Oracle v.
Google case ended in May 2012, with the finding that
Google did not
infringe on Oracle's patents, and the trial judge ruled that the
structure of the Java APIs used by
Google was not copyrightable. The
jury found that
Google infringed a small number of copied files, but
the parties stipulated that
Google would pay no damages. Oracle
appealed to the
Federal Circuit , and
Google filed a cross-appeal on
the literal copying claim. Oracle won the appeal, but
Google won a
subsequent retrial in 2016.
AS PART/DRIVER OF A NEW SOCIOECONOMIC MODEL
Open-source model See also:
The Zeitgeist Movement ,
Open content ,
Open science ,
Open Source Ecology
Open Source Ecology ,
Open manufacturing ,
Sharing economy , and
By defying ownership regulations in the construction and use of
information − a key area of contemporary growth − the Free/Open
Software (FOSS) movement counters neoliberalism and
privatization in general.
By realizing the historical potential of an "economy of abundance "
for the new digital world FOSS may lay down a plan for political
resistance or show the way towards a potential transformation of
BENKLER\'S NEW ECONOMY
Yochai Benkler , Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman
Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at
Harvard Law School ,
free software is the most visible part of a new economy of
commons-based peer production of information, knowledge, and culture.
As examples, he cites a variety of FOSS projects, including both free
software and open-source.
This new economy is already under development. To commercialize FOSS,
many companies move towards advertisement-supported software. In such
a model, the only way to increase revenue is to make the advertisement
Facebook was criticized in 2011 for using novel methods
of tracking users to accomplish this.
This new economy has alternatives. Apple's App Stores have proven
very popular with both users and developers. The Free Software
Foundation considers Apple's App Stores to be incompatible with its
GPL and complained that Apple was infringing on the GPL with its
GPL, Apple removed the GPL-licensed products from its App Stores.
Free software community
Free software license
Graphics hardware and FOSS
List of free and open source software packages
List of formerly proprietary software
Outline of free software
* ^ FOSS is an inclusive term that covers both free software and
open-source software , which despite describing similar development
models, have differing cultures and philosophies. Free refers to the
users' freedom to copy and re-use the software. The Free Software
Foundation , an organization that advocates the free software model,
suggests that, to understand the concept, one should "think of free as
in free speech, not as in free beer". (See "The Free Software
Definition". GNU.org. Retrieved 4 February 2010. ) Free software
focuses on the fundamental freedoms it gives to users, whereas open
source software focuses on the perceived strengths of its peer-to-peer
development model. FOSS is a term that can be used without particular
bias towards either political approach.
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outcomes, however, are this:
BusyBox will be GPLv2 only starting with
the next release. It is generally accepted that stripping out the "or
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lwn.net. Retrieved 2015-11-21. Don't invent a straw man argument
please. I consider licensing
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Software Foundation (FSF) of the new version 3 of
GNU General Public License
GNU General Public License (GPL) on the 29th of June 2007,
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licensing terms for future version of the
VLC media player
VLC media player and other
hosted projects, to version 3 of the GPL. There is strong concern
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and economic reality of our time, especially in the market of consumer
electronics. It is our belief that changing our licensing terms to GPL
version 3 would currently not be in the best interest of our community
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