When we buy a software, we are actually acquiring a license to use it. Therefore, whoever obtains it is bound by numerous subtle rules. For example, you cannot share or modify the program. However, a few years ago, a group of programmers dedicated themselves to write and share the so-called free software. This not only allows us to copy programs but also to study, run and distribute them freely. Next we will go more in depth about free software and how it works.
What is free software?
Its definition is associated with the birth of the free software movement. This was spearheaded by Richard Stallman and the founding of the Free Software Foundation. Free software is any software whose source code can be freely studied, modified and used for any purpose. It is even possible to copy and redistribute the program with or without changes.
In other words, this type of software gives the freedom to any person or organization to use a program for any kind of work. In addition, there is no obligation to communicate it to a developer or any specific entity.
What are the 4 freedoms of free software?
For a program to be free software, it must have four freedoms:
Freedom 0: to use the program for any purpose
The freedom to run the program for any purpose is about every user being free to use the software in:
- Any computer system;
- For any type of work and purpose;
- Without obligation to communicate to any specific entity or to the programmer.
In other words, the user is not forbidden or prevented from executing it. Indeed, what matters is its purpose and not that of the programmer.
Freedom 1: to study how the program works and to be able to modify it
To have freedoms 1 and 3 it is necessary to have access to the source code. Consequently, this is a fundamental condition for free software. Now, Freedom 1 is the freedom to use the modified version (according to the user’s wishes and needs) instead of the original one.
Freedom 2: to distribute copies of the program to any person or organization
The freedom to distribute the program (Freedoms 2 and 3) means that users are free to redistribute and share copies with or without modifications. In addition, without the need to ask or pay for permission to do so. In addition, programs can be distributed free of charge or for a fee.
Freedom 3: to improve the program and share the improvements for the benefit of all.
Freedom 3 makes it possible to improve the program – and, like freedom 2 – makes it possible to share and release modified versions as free software. Thus, benefiting the people or organizations that use it.
Is Free Software and Open Source the same thing?
The answer is: no. Certainly Open Source and Free Software pursue the common goal of bringing greater freedom and transparency to the software world. However, they differ in the way in which each carries out this action.
Therefore, the main difference lies in the fact that free software prioritizes ethical and moral issues related to the software, leaving the technical aspect as a secondary point.
On the other hand, open source emphasizes the technical aspects as a priority before any moral discussion about licenses and rights. Furthermore, not all Open Source software has to be free, but all products and their derivatives developed in Open Source must be free.
5 advantages of open source software
Development and continuous improvement
The fact that the source code can be accessed allows many people to review and test the code and, as a consequence, not only is there a better result, but also the security is far superior to proprietary software.
On the other hand, the free software is attended among many users who directly evaluate the failures or faults that the program presents. Therefore, you do not have to wait for the manufacturer to release an update or a corrected version. Therefore, this allows to reduce the time it takes to solve problems.
Enables technological independence
By not being dependent on the major software manufacturers, users can decide whether system migrations or upgrades are necessary. By the same token, you do not have to submit to decisions imposed by that manufacturer.
Savings in the acquisition, maintenance, and renewal of technologies
It is much more economical to upgrade or mass install open source software than proprietary software.
Moreover, by not having to invest in annual licenses, users can save money or use it to acquire other necessary software linked to the company’s service.
Allows copying of software
As we mentioned before with the freedoms, we can copy free software. Therefore, without the need to acquire new licenses, it can be distributed to all those who need it.
Users have control over the source code, so with free software you have absolute freedom to use the program for any purpose. In addition, without restrictions and adapt it to the needs of each company.
This software usually requires technical knowledge that is not common among computer users. Therefore, it is necessary that if you are going to integrate it to your company, you have a person who knows about this world. Especially to help you analyze and select those tools that will be useful to you. In addition, he/she must have the knowledge and ability to update and adapt based on the needs of the organization.