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Unambiguous name for Free Software without ideological dillution

Asheesh posted When “free software” got a new name, which mentions about the transition period where the Free Software movement started its quest towards being understood by non-geeks, and when people started finding terms better suited for general (and specifically, business-minded) audiences.

We are talking about facts that reached concretion 12 years ago, when the term Open Source was coined and divulgated. That is already far in the past to try and change it – Still, during DebConf I was talking with several friends about it. In my opinion, there was never really the need to choose such an ambiguous name – In English, the word Liberty unambiguously refers to free as in freedom, with no conceptual links to gratuity. Liberty is also a concept held dear by the values of the USA society (which is the birthplace of our ideological movement, so it’s specially important). Jimmy Kaplowitz pointed out a reason: Liberty is an incomplete word. You could translate what Asheesh’s post mentions, Freed SoftwareLiberated Software, but libertydoes not exist as an adjective by itself, only when used as contrasting with an earlier more restricted situation. We can say some piece of software was liberated if it was born unfree, but what about things that were libre since the beginning?

So, yes, as beautiful as Liberty is, and as advantageous as such a concept would have been for us… Liberty seems to be too imperfect to be able to represent our movement.


Aigarius 2010-09-19 13:56:02


Well, actually by current law all software is initally born into slavery of the copyright of their author and has to be freed or liberated by the author before it becomes free software.

Anonymous 2010-09-19 14:14:25

You could use liberty, it

You could use liberty, it doesn’t have to be an adjective. Then of course it would be digital liberty that you try to spread; or binary liberty, coded liberty, or virtually any liberty you can think of.

gwolf 2010-09-19 13:18:02

Retrospectively, it might have worked…

But still… It is not an English word. It is something that would raise eyebrows. And it is something that –as the world stands today– would not fit naturally in a conversation. Probably in the same sense that “Open Source” didn’t fit 12 years ago. But then again, it had a campaign behind, and “libre” doesn’t.

So, in Spanish I stick to “Software Libre”, and in English to “Free Software”. They are terms understood widely enough that I can even usually just write SL / FS, and it’s understood.

If needed, I sometimes use in English the still-in-my-eyes-ugly FOSS, as it has gained recognition as well.

Joe Buck 2010-09-20 10:13:51

Why “liberated” couldn’t be used

In the USA during the 1960s, “to liberate” became slang for “to steal”, so “liberated software” would be interpreted as “stolen software”.

Konstantin Khomoutov 2010-09-19 10:32:54

What about “Libre software”?

What about “Libre software”? (See

m 2010-09-19 14:11:48

matter of placing

You could use liberty, it doesn’t have to be an adjective. Then of course it would be digital liberty that you try to spread; or binary liberty, coded liberty, or virtually any liberty you can think of.

Philip Hands 2010-09-20 09:13:45


In the EC the term FLOSS gets used quite widely (and the EC funds quite a lot of supposedly Free Software via its Framework Program, although how much of it really pushes the state of the art is another question. The point is that money gets thrown at people who use the term FLOSS, so more people use that term).

Anyway, like you, I find the terms FOSS and FLOSS ugly, but the latter has started to grow on me, since this occurred to me:

Uncomfortable viral infection? Have you FLOSSed?

Cheers, Phil.

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe 2010-09-20 00:24:51

could be better

It tends to suck that each time I talk Free software, I have to explain that I don’t mean gratis. So a compromise is FLOSS, which is way too long. I’d vote for Libre Software.

I don’t understand your concern with “it would raise eyebrows”. In an English conversation, the word dejavu is very common, and it’s not even English. Anyways it sounds to me if the word Libre was chosen initially by Richard Stallman, there would not be a need to use 2 separate terms for the 2 movements, ‘free’ and ‘open’.