How I realised “Free Software” is a better term than “Open Source”

30th April 2017

A month ago I wrote an article called "How I realised “Open Source” is a better term than “Free Software”". Now I change my mind completely and explain why everything I said was actually wrong.

In aforementioned article I argued:

“Free Software” is a bad term

In fact it is a very good term because it is harder to explain so you have to explain it properly. Like this:

“Most software deprives you of the Freedoms to share, modify and study, by keeping the human-readable copy of the code secret and/or using copyright law to restrict you. This is called nonfree software, and is gives the developer control over it's users; this makes the program an instrument of unjust power.
Free Software is software that respects the user's rights to control their computing. With Free Software, you can study and modify the code, and share the changes with your friends. This is important to society because it means we are in control of our tools. Free Software is a matter of freedom, not price. How much it costs is irrelevant, freedom is what matters. Software that doesn't cost anything is freeware...”

"Open Source" is too easy to explain because you can just say:

“Open source is software that publishes the human-readable version of the code and gives you permission to study, modify and redistribute it.”

Now which of those explanations do you think is more educational?

It’s not really about Freedom at all, because >99% of computer users are non-programmers.

This is just silly. Free Software gives us as a society the freedom to control our computers. And it gives us as individuals the freedom learn how to program them if we want to.

It's OK to use some bits of proprietary software as long as you know which ones they are.

This would be true if software freedom was an entirely personal thing, which only affected one's-self. However if you see Free Software as a political movement then you have to surely make an example by using only Free Software, and pressure software developers to provide only Free Software. So in fact we must use only 100% Free Software to live the message and spread the message.

DRM is great because it stops people pirating movies.

It's like saying police brutality is good because it deters bad dudes. If we have to do despicable things to force people to pay for things then our society is broken.

The Free Software community is like a religion, anyone who disagrees is treated like a heretic.

It is a bit like a religion I think. And this is good because Free Software can only succeed if people look beyond their self-interest and believe that they can be part of something bigger. A society that shares and stands up for what's good.

The Free Software movement is a bit mad

It's only mad for having hope, for believing in something bigger and better. Besides it's better to be openly mad than to mistakenly think you are actually sane.