Free software movement

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The free software movement advocates the creation and sharing of free software (compare open source).

Software genius and GNU pioneer Richard Stallman defines free software as respecting the "essential freedoms" to:

  • Run the program for any purpose
  • Study how the software works and modify it to meet your needs
  • Distribute copies of the software
  • Publish modifications to the software

In order to fulfill these requirements access to the source code is essential, so free software is a type of open source software. The right to distribute the software may be subject to a clause that ensures that future recipients of the software have the same freedoms.

Stallman and his Free Software Foundation created the General Public License, which grants the user specific rights that are not typically granted for proprietary software.

Examples of free software are the Linux operating system and the Apache web server, which this very site runs on.

Free software and Open Source software

Stallman wrote:

  • The two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, because only free software respects the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only. [1]


Articles by Richard Stallman: