Learning the Differences: Open-Source VS Free Software VS Freeware

Tech terminology is of great importance for all the development-oriented people out there. In fact, if you are techy, tech terminology could come in handy. Even if we live in a world where we are basically surrounded by technology and in a world where many essential parts of our lives depend on it, we are still somehow refusing to understand it. 

The development industry is filled with complicated terms popping out on a regular basis, and who is to blame the people who don’t know? In this short tech terminology guide, you will be able to find out three new terms and what is the difference between those terms. So, let’s find out what is open-source, free software and freeware, and how they differ one from another.

Open-Source Software

Open-source software is commonly mistaken for free software, and even though the two are quite similar, they are not the same. Moreover, the similarity lies in software and license, but the differences lie in the Open Source Initiative. To begin with, OSS has certain criteria that include software redistribution for free, and publicly available source code. What’s more, the format of the software can be modified, but it shouldn’t discriminate against persons or groups nor restrict using other software. 

Even if the idea behind both the open-source and free software is the same, their policies and intentions are different. Free software came first, and the open-source software followed with slight changes. The goal is to get the developers and software users to change and improve the source code. In other words, what makes it different from the free software is the chance for the users/developers to collaborate in the whole developing process. So, if the free software one is used to mainly be of use to the end-user, this type of software is there to motivate them, as well.

Free Software

The second term to discuss is “free software”. As you can understand from the previous parts of this text, the two differ and it has almost nothing to do with the monetary compensation. Thus, some developers refer to it as libre software, to avoid being misunderstood. So, the name “free” comes from the user/developer’s ability to change, study or even share this kind of software. Moreover, since the modification of the software is allowed, the developers could also tweak it, make it better and even sell it.

But, there are some criteria that the whole concept of free software lies on. These rights are called the four pillars of freedom. The four freedom pillars include the freedom to expand the software for any use. Then, there is a freedom to study the software’s principles and the ability to change it. The third freedom is the one to freely redistribute the software (both free or for a price). Finally, the fourth freedom is the one to upgrade the performance of the software and release the update.

Freeware

Lastly, this term describes the type of software that can be used for free, or without any monetary compensation. Nonetheless, that freedom is rather limited for the uses/developers. What does it exactly mean? Well, even if you don’t have to pay for it, modifying it, sharing, or upgrading it is not allowed. This also means that this type of software is distributed without its source code. 

The end-user is in most cases allowed to pay for the license to be able to get a different version. This type of freeware is named freemium. In addition, there is another version of freeware and it is called shareware. Mainly, this kind of freeware is free when downloaded, but only for a limited period of time.