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After a recent incident with an open source project, I got involved in a twitter debate about the differences between Open Source and Free Software (here and precedent messages).

This article has been suggested by Stallman to explain the historical reasons behind the differences.

I’ve found it very interesting.

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    An Eric Raymond’s quote from one of the linked sources of the article (emphasis mine):

    Free Software is very much a moral crusade. […]
    I care much less about that. To me, Open Source is not particularly a moral or a legal issue. It’s an engineering issue. I advocate Open Source, because very pragmatically, I think it leads to better engineering results and better economic results.

    So this is the difference I see between the two:

    • Free Software is defined by the hackers’ ethics
    • Open Source is defined by the availability of sources

    One is led by a well defined set of values, the other is orthogonal to ethics.

    The negation of this cultural difference fools developers (and users).

    I argue that we should not be afraid of differences.
    Honest differences enrich dialogue and collaboration.

    Each project can use these terms to brand itself according to its priorities and culture, so that developers can freely choose who to help and how much. And user can know what to expect.

    But we should not use “open source” and “free software” as synonyms.
    And we should not talk about FLOSS or FOSS like if they were a thing.

    Because the ambiguity homogenizes definitions, elevate Open Source as if it stands for values that it refuses and marginalizes Free Software and hackers’ ethics that defend those values.

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      The film “Revolution OS”, though a bit dated, has quite a lot of information regarding the “free software” vs “open source” terminology debate.

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        This was an interesting read but I’m just not buying the O’Reilly propaganda narrative. All framing of all issues are false just as all models are false; some are useful. Open Source didn’t win because of clever propaganda, it won because businesses are where most of the programming is. Of course governments want to go for the uncontroversial easy wins first, but the uncontroversial easy wins are still wins; technocracy is not the solution to every issue but it’s a solution to some (and the point about Head Start wasn’t that it’s unprofitable but that it’s useless; it doesn’t achieve better life outcomes for its participants, but it’s still politically impossible to end it).

        Of course O’Reilly will have his own views and agenda and his political advocacy and the arguments he advances will reflect that. But that’s not a sign of a nefarious plot; that’s how politics is supposed to work.

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          All framing of all issues are false just as all models are false; some are useful.

          This seems a good point, actually…

          Open Source didn’t win because of clever propaganda, it won because businesses are where most of the programming is. Of course governments want […]

          Wait… WHAT? This is a framing of a issue, isn’t it? ;-)

          BTW, I agree with you, life is always way more complex than what history describes.
          Still Morozov provides sources to back his reasoning.

          To me however, the point is not if Morozov reconstruction is true or complete.

          The point is that whatever the reason, users and programmers’ need to be aware of the profound difference between Free Software and Open Source.

          One can choose. But she need to know. Because leaders with different ethics behave differently.

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            Wait… WHAT? This is a framing of a issue, isn’t it? ;-)

            No, it’s a descriptive claim. The part that’s framing is the idea that clever propaganda and being useful to business are mutually exclusive and it’s one or another, and that part is not entirely true (part of what makes “open source” valuable to business is that there’s a propaganda machine behind it), but, I think, true enough to be useful.

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              Nobody think that clever propaganda and being useful to business are mutually exclusive. On the contrary!

              Indeed the propaganda’s goal was to turn a cultural movement into a business and marketing tool!

              And it was pretty successful, as the economical value of open source is evident.
              As of today even Microsoft releases open source code. They have learnt how to use this tool effectively.
              It can be used to enter a niche or to destroy a monopoly (anybody can remember IE?).

              And frankly, I think that it’s good that open source helps companies.

              So, nobody negate the huge economical value of open source.
              It’s just orthogonal to ethics, just like any other business tool.
              It can only be described in term of effectivenes, of utility, of return of investment… and so on.

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          Stopped reading when it was implied Tim O’Reilly coined the term “open source”.

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            No. It says that he fostered the term as an alternative to “free software”.

            As everybody knows (except me… I’ve learnt it recently :-D), the term itself was coined by Christine Peterson.

            It was meant to be used as a synonym of “Free Software”. But it has been exploited and emptied of meaning.
            Not her fault, though. She is not a programmer. She probably didn’t know that code duplication lead to bugs.

            Thus… I suggest you to keep reading. ;-)

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