Skip to content

Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source”

The definitions of free software and open source software could bring about some ambiguity and confusion, but there lies a fundamental difference between the two. As much as they can be seen as two parties within the same community, their definitions present different ideas. They work closely especially on the practical recommendations of the free software community.

The free software and the open software differ on some basic principles, but most of their practical recommendations are similar and agree with each other. The two are not enemies, but rather their enemy is the proprietary software. However, comparing the two terms, free software is found to be a better term than open source software due to the following reasons.


The term “free software” has some unintended semantic ambiguity where people are led to thinking that it means software that is obtained free of charge. The intended meaning, however, is that the software gives the users certain freedoms. The free software community has tried to eliminate this problem by giving a clear definition of free software. However, this cannot completely eliminate the problem. Several suggestions for the replacement of the name have been fronted but found to have similar challenges, or even worse. One of the terms fronted to replace free software is the open source software. Its definition did not fully comply with the requisites of the free software and was found to be looser. It also accepted some restrictive software that is not allowed under the free software.

Fear of Freedom

The supporters of open source software prefer the term over free software since the free software is too loud on discussing some ethical issues and freedoms. This creates uneasiness in some people as they prefer to keep quiet as it is more acceptable to the business practices. This is a common practice among the software distributors who even go an extra mile to add some proprietary packages, to the free software and this sells as an added advantage to its users. The free software, on the other hand, wants the freedom to be talked about frequently so that its users can appreciate it.

When users are made aware of the freedoms the free software presents, they will not compromise them for the sake of proprietary software that pretty much has the same features as the free software. Many companies with proprietary software have lured users into switching to their software and most users have fallen prey. Only those who have appreciated the freedoms given by the free software have remained loyal. The solution to this challenge would be more talk about the freedoms and also teach about the free software in schools. Since this is not happening, it will continue to suffer from the quietness.