What is Free/Libre Software?

What is Free/Libre Software?

This web site is built with free/libre software such as the following.

  • Debian, the universal operating system, runs on the servers.
  • Apache, the web server service, is the world’s most-used web server.
  • Mariadb, the database server, keeps up with users and content.
  • PHP, a popular programming language, connects web pages with data in the database.
  • WordPress, a popular content management system, keeps track of pages and articles.

The benefit of Free Software is that it respects users’ freedom and community. Free Software users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, ‘free software’ is a matter of liberty, not price… It’s also called ‘libre software,’ to set it apart from software that is merely gratis but not actually free. (FSF, 1996)

With these freedoms, which everyone deserves, users (both individually and collectively) control the program. When users don’t control the program, the program is “nonfree” or “proprietary.” The nonfree program controls the users, and the developer controls the program; this makes the program an instrument of control and power over the user. (FSF, 1996)

Software that’s free only in the sense that you don’t need to pay to use it is hardly free at all. You may be forbidden to make copies, and you are almost certainly prevented from improving it. Software licensed at no cost could simply be a weapon in a marketing campaign to promote a related product or to drive a smaller competitor out of business. There is no guarantee that it will stay free-of-cost. (Debian, 1997)