KT's Journal

November 14, 2009

FLOSS definition

Filed under: Uncategorized — K @ 1:35 am

A discussion came up while writing the “Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge” on use of the acronym FLOSS. Opposed to the notion that “free software” is “also known as” “open source software”, I propose the following for FLOSS in glossaries:

FLOSS (free/libre and open source software) includes both “free software” (also known as “software libre”) and “open source software”, whose definitions follow. The ethical foundations of the free software definition distinguish it from the open source definition. The open source definition was grounded in the efficiency of the associated software development methodology and acceptability of the term “open source” in the software industry at the time.  <both definitions would follow in the glossary>

Several participants argue for “free software” to be used in general throughout the document. For the “Free Culture Forum’s charter” this is consistent and comes with free software’s legacy of success in championing the cause of software freedom; though personally, I am still drawn to “software libre”.

My take on “libre” is explained here (Say Libre),  though this essay is more about libre knowledge and learning resources than free software.

Libre is a “loan word” in English which is understood by most people involved with free software, open source software and other movements (free culture, open knowledge, open education, …). “Libre” has some international appeal; there are similar words with the same meaning in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, …, which helps with understandability and solidarity.

I also remember Richard Stallman once saying that he would not mind if the term “software libre” caught on.

Finally, in case you wondered about the phrase “at the time” in my definition of FLOSS above, times change. Climate change, the economic crisis and various trends around social responsibility are bringing about a global economic environment where ethics is a competitive advantage.

In this new context, on account of its ethical foundation, “free software” becomes more acceptable than “open source software”, and “software libre” could become the preferred, unambiguous term that gets translated into many languages as the next 5 billion people get connected.

So, I for one will say “libre” for clarity (and say “free software” when disambiguation is not required).

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