Free and open source software (FOSS) or free/libre open source software (FLOSS) definition

Free and open source software (FOSS), also known as free/libre open source software (FLOSS) and free/open source software (F/OSS), is software developed by informal collaborative networks of programmers. The source code is licensed free of charge, encouraging modifications and improvements.

The term free software refers to a lack of restrictions on individual users as well as zero cost; the term open source software refers to collaborative or networked development. FOSS, which embraces the benefits and adherents of both paradigms, is gaining widespread acceptance as traditional modes of software design are challenged.

The increasing popularity of FOSS has led to frustration in some circles for at least three reasons:

  • Conventional software developers, distributors and sellers fear that FOSS will undercut their profits.
  • Abuse of FOSS privileges may lead to questionable claims of copyright or trademark protection, thereby spawning litigation.
  • The monetary value of FOSS is unclear, so governments have trouble figuring out how to tax it.

Learn More About IT:
FOSS Bazaar is a community of free and open source software governance.
Fossology provides free data analysis tools for FOSS development.

This was first published in June 2008

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