Good to know: Freeware is not Free Software

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You will be interested to note that; you can purchase a Free software! That is to say Free Software may not be free and might come with a huge price Tag! Then why is it called Free? And what is freeware then? Are freeware not Free softwares? The literature on internet uses both terms extensively, mostly interchangeably, confusing their real meanings. I have especially written this post to clear this dust and enlighten you about both the terms in detail.

First and foremost, freeware is not Free software.

What is Freeware?
Freeware are software that are commercially free. That is, you don’t need to spend money to use the software. Technically, Freeware does not require the payment of any license fee for the use of the software. Today there are millions of software that you can freely download and use. All of these software are called freeware.

What about the source code?
Freewares, typically are provided under license which restrict user’s access to source code. This means user cannot customize software or view/change/study the source code.
You might have come across two versions of the same software, one pro version and the other free version. The free version usually has limited features when compared to the paid pro version: but you can download and use the free version for life time without paying any fee. Such types of software are also included in freeware category. Software that are free to use for first (say) 20 times are also loosely categorized as freeware too. Software that are free to use but contain ads are also freeware.
According to Wikipedia “the software license may impose additional restrictions on the type of use including personal use, private use, individual use, non-profit use, non-commercial use, academic use, educational use, use in charity or humanitarian organizations, non-military use, use by public authorities or various other combinations of these type of restrictions”.

Examples of freeware
Commercial organizations such as Microsoft have also launched some freeware like MS Visual Basic Express Edition, Microsoft Accounting Express 2009 and Sync Toy. Other popular freeware are AVG Antivirus, Skype and the list continues.

Now meet the real hero, the..

Free Software: What is Free Software?
Free software, the term is used and is defined by Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org). Free software means that users can freely run, copy, distribute, study and change the software. Look deeper:

The Price?
Free software may be free of cost or it may cost you some amount. That depends. However, no matter how you got the free software ( purchased it, or it was free);  with free software you always get the FREEdom to copy, change and distribute the software your way. The FSF further elaborates the concept in these words: “Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”.

The source code ( and the freedom you get)
For any software to be called as Free software, source code SHOULD be available. As FSF defines, with a Free software you get 4 freedoms: (see complete document):

1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish. (Access to the source code is a precondition for this).
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.( Access to the source code is a precondition for this).

FSF in their definition of Free software, state it clearly that “In order for freedoms (stated in clause 2 and 4-above i.e. the freedom to make changes and the freedom to publish improved versions) to be meaningful, you must have access to the source code of the program. Therefore the Accessibility of source code is a necessary condition for free software. It must also be noted that FSF treats Obfuscated “source code” ‘not real source code’.

Commercial Free Software
A Free software can be commercial, for that the program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. That is, you might confront to a situation where you will pay to get a copy of Free software. But regardless of how you got your copies, you always have the freedom to copy and change the software. Today commercial development of Free software is usual practice.

Examples of Free Software
All the products of Mozilla, including Firefox, Thunderbird etc. And software distributed under GNU Public  License.

So by now you must understand that not all Free Software are free of cost and Free software is not freeware! Do not use them interchangeably!

For questions please refer to our Q/A forum at : http://ask.unixmen.com/


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