Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Alternative terms for free software have been a controversial issue among free software users from the late 1990s onwards. Coined in 1983 by Richard Stallman, "free software" is used to describe software which can be used, modified, and redistributed with little or no restriction. These freedoms are formally described in The Free Software Definition, first published in February 1986.

Alternatives for "free software" were sought because some businesses were uncomfortable with the word "free"s association with the ideas of freedom/liberty. A second problem was that the "available at no cost" ambiguity of the word "free" was seen as discouraging business adoption. In a 1998 strategy session in California, "open-source software" was selected by Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, Christine Peterson, and Eric S. Raymond. Richard Stallman had not been invited. The session was arranged in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator (as Mozilla). Those at the meeting described "open source" as a "replacement label" for free software and founded the Open Source Initiative to promote the term as part of "a marketing program for free software" . Stallman and others object to the term "open-source software" because it does not describe all of the freedoms associated with the free software definition.