Fri, 17 Mar 2006

Public Software

I think that I'm not going to use the term "Free and Open Source Software" or its acronym "FOSS". I just don't like the term. It doesn't roll off my tongue. You most often see people in political positions use FOSS. FOSS is viewed as a compromise term. You see, Open Sourcers don't like Free Software, and Free Software-ers don't like Open Source.

"Open Source" doesn't say anything about freedom. Free Software isn't so much about software as it is about freedom. Thus, if you don't say "Free", you completely miss the whole point. No term which doesn't have "free" in it will satsify them.

The problem with "Free Software" is that in English, Free Software has two or three meanings. Free as in freedom, which is the intended meaning. Free as in zero-cost, which is not undesirable although it's besides the point. Free as in crap, which is very much not desired, but "It's only worth what you paid for it" is a widely-held view.

I've had some people suggest "Libre Software", but that seems to bring its own confusion: what does a library have to do with software?

I think I like the term "Public Software", as in the Public Software Fund. Andrew Carnegie paid for the Carnegie Libraries, public libraries. Mark Shuttleworth has endowed The Ubuntu Foundation, a public Linux distribution. John Gilmore is paying for GNU Radio, public software. Given the increasing interest from public institutions, I think "public software" is a good term.

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