Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Free Software is a horrible name!

At least, in English it is. In French, there are two words to distinguish the free meant in "freedom" and the free meant in "free beer": libré, et gratuit. You can see the ties of the first one to "liberty".

This is one of my peeves about people. Hijacking words. Yes, words are just labels and dictionary writers are mere historians of usage, there's no true meaning to a word, but damn it be clear and use the common usage! I'm looking at you, too, Objectivism: hijacked words include selfishness, altruism, objective, and a host of others.

Now people are starting to misidentify Free Software as freeware, which is certainly not always the case. Freeware is any software, be it proprietary or open source, that costs the user nothing. (I suspect the authors hate freedom if they make it proprietary...) I understand Stallman wanted to emphasize the Freedom aspect of Free Software, which is why he doesn't like the term Open Source, but Free Software is hardly better!

The same with GNU/Linux. It's Linux now, get over it, or at least suggest Lignux with a silent g. But we can still save Free Software! Call it Software Libré (lee-bear for non-Frenchies), then it even rhymes. You could also call it Freed Software, which yes implies it was once not free, but still gets rid of the ambiguity. Liberty Code, Freedom Code are other variants.

But seeing freeware to describe Free Software just really bugs me. Open Source (which is what I almost exclusively call it unless talking with people who know better, then I'll mingle) can be free in price or paid for, but it also gets across the point that the source code is readable, which isn't immediately clear from the Free Software version (or even Software Libré). When you're trying to give someone an elevator-pitch, it helps if you can say a simple term like Open Source and expect them to get it, instead of Free Software followed by a lengthy explanation about how proprietary code is evil and the users are held hostage to the creators and so on. Let's just use Open Source and specify licenses when we have issues of meaning.

Posted on 2009-10-24 by Jach

Tags: open source, stupidity


Trackback URL:

Back to the top

Anonymous June 17, 2017 02:22:37 PM Is more than just readable; can also be modified. Both things are I have found to be useful.
Back to the first comment

Comment using the form below

(Only if you want to be notified of further responses, never displayed.)

Your Comment:

LaTeX allowed in comments, use $$\$\$...\$\$$$ to wrap inline and $$[math]...[/math]$$ to wrap blocks.