Free and open-source software (F/OSS, FOSS) or free/libre/open-source software (FLOSS) is software that is both free software and open source software. It is liberally licensed to grant users the right to use, copy, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code. This approach has gained both momentum and acceptance as the potential benefits[clarification needed] have been increasingly recognized by both individuals and corporations.
In the context of free and open-source software, free refers to the freedom to copy and re-use the software, rather than to the price of the software. The Free Software Foundation, an organization that advocates the free software model, suggests that, to understand the concept, one should “think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer”.
FOSS is an inclusive term that covers both free software and open-source software, which despite describing similar development models, have differing cultures and philosophies. Free software focuses on the fundamental freedoms it gives to users, whereas open source software focuses on the perceived strengths of its peer-to-peer development model. FOSS is a term that can be used without particular bias towards either political approach.
Free software licences and open-source licenses are used by many software packages. While the licenses themselves are in most cases the same, the two terms grew out of different philosophies and are often used to signify different distribution methodologies.
I use mostly FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) to make this podcast. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, being free is very important, for obvious reasons. This is (at least at the moment – July 2013) a hobby, and not something I can pour money and time into – hence the gaps between episodes. So to be able to do most of the work involved with software that has been developed and made available for free is an enormous boon (and we’re always on the lookout for enormous boons).
In addition, the fact that by using these tools (and telling you about it) I can in some small way further the cause of these development and distribution models. Admittedly, I’m getting the best deal out of it, being just a user rather than a contributing developer. But I submit bug reports, and drop a few dollars in the hat from time to time.
If you’re looking for FOSS (or Freemium, or normal paid, or whatever) alternatives to some piece of software, start by checking out AlternativeTo, which lists and ranks alternatives to big-name software. For example, Inkscape (free) is a FOSS alternative to Adobe Illustrator ($300), and GIMP (free) is like Adobe Photoshop ($400). Maybe not as powerful as their expensive counterparts, but perfect for my uses. “Differently powerful”.
FOSS for ever!