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Difference between Open-Source and Free Software

Difference between Open-Source and Free Software

When considering software for your business, it is important to understand the difference between open source and free software. Both have benefits, but each has its own unique set of features. Open-source software can be modified and shared by anyone, while free software is available at no cost and usually includes fewer features. Understanding the differences between these two types of software will help you make the best decision for your business.

What is Open-Source Software?

Open-source software is computer software that is available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute freely. The term “open source” refers to the fact that the source code—the code that creates the software program—is available for anyone to view, edit, and improve. Open-source software is often developed collaboratively by volunteer programmers from around the world. Because anyone can contribute to open source software, it can be more innovative and adaptable than traditional commercial software. Open-source software is also usually more affordable than commercial software since it doesn’t require a license fee. Open-source software is used in a wide range of applications, including web browsers, office suites, programming languages, and operating systems. Some well-known open-source software programs include the Firefox web browser, the LibreOffice office suite, and the Linux operating system.

What is Free Software?

Free software is a type of software that gives users the freedom to run, study, distribute and change the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright licenses and the users do not have these freedoms. Free software is usually developed in a collaborative manner, with developers sharing their code so that others can benefit from it. Free software is often released under a free license, which allows anyone to use, modify and redistribute the software. Free software values user freedom and collaboration, and it is this philosophy that sets it apart from proprietary software. Free software is an essential part of the open-source movement, which seeks to promote the development and use of open source technologies.

Difference between Open-Source and Free Software

Open source and free software are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Open-source software is software that is available for anyone to use and modify. The source code for open-source software is typically available for anyone to view, and there is usually a community of developers who contribute to the project. Free software, on the other hand, refers to software that is available without cost. However, free software also comes with certain freedoms, such as the freedom to redistribute or modify the software. As a result, free software is often seen as being more ethical than open-source software.


While the terms “open source” and “free software” are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings. Open-source software is released under a license that allows users to study, change, and improve the code. In contrast, free software must be distributed at no cost, and users are not allowed to change or redistribute it. It is important for businesses to understand the difference between open source and free software when making decisions about which products to use.

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