Open Source is the Best Term
I once met a man who, having talked to some FOSS-enthusiast, felt moved, and told me he was sure to use ‘free’ software, but not that ‘open source’, software. His attempts, of course, would be futile, because the words refer to the same software.
The Free Software Foundation (could they not at least have called themselves the ‘Foundation for Free Software’?) have stated that ‘free software’ does not mean the same as ‘open source’ software, because big, nasty, companies use the term ‘open source’, to remove the ethical questions about the freedoms of software. Now I’d like to give this remark more attention than in deserves.
- Corporations don’t have motivations, people do, and those very many people have a great many motivations.
- ‘Open source’ software does in fact raise ethical questions, at least when I speak about it.
- ‘Free software’, does not necessarily raise ethical questions, because the term has to be explained.
Corporations, whatever evils they may commit, can universally communicate well (meaning, they communicate what they want to, with the clarity they wish). When people hear ‘open source software’, they mostly get that there’s something open about it, and that other software closes the source away in some sense. The term communicates everything it needs to, instantly.
On the other side, ‘free software’ never goes unexplained
free software, and when I say “free”, I mean the following things…
If your explanation needs another explanation, then it’s not much of an explanation. We can see the zenith of this confusion in the ugly compromise-word ‘FLOSS’, meaning ‘free, libre, open source, software’.
So now we have:
- ‘free’ (ambiguous)
- ’libre’ (to clarify the first word)
- open source (to finally say what we’re saying)
I’d rather just the ‘oss’, an acronym so awkward, nobody will ever use it, which then forces people to say what they mean.
Richard Stallman’s a good Philosopher, but he’s a bad salesman, and clearly not cut out for the world of marketing.