Hixie's Natural Log

2004-12-20 02:02 UTC What's wrong with the term "Open Source"

In the Free software world there are two philosophical camps, the "Free Software" camp (nominally led by RMS) and the "Open Source" camp (nominally led by ESR). By and large both camps care about the same thing, I think, but there are differences.

One of the principle differences is that the Free Software camp think that the term "Open Source" dilutes the entire point of the exercise — increase in freedom — while the Open Source side thinks that the term "Free Software" is too easily confused with "Gratis Software".

The latter point is clearly demonstrated by the fact that at least one person I know (my dad) always understands "Gratis Software" when I say "Free Software", even if I explain the term.

The former point, though, is apparently just as true. Evidence: a recent Web log post by Robert Scoble:

Open source has become a metaphor for things done in public view with public input. Actually, [Microsoft is] a leader here. Check out Channel 9. It's the first step along the road to open source marketing.

Doing things in the open? Who cares. What I want is the freedom to run the program however I please, study it to see how it works, share it with my friends, and help improve it.

I really wish we could come up with a term that didn't have the ambiguity of "Free Software" and of "Open Source". In the meantime, though, I'm sticking with "Free Software (as in free will)".