Definition

free software

Free software is software that can be freely used, modified, and redistributed with only one restriction: any redistributed version of the software must be distributed with the original terms of free use, modification, and distribution (known as copyleft). The definition of free software is stipulated as part of the GNU Project and by the Free Software Foundation. Free software may may be packaged and distributed for a fee; the "free" refers to the ability to reuse it, modified or unmodified, as part of another software package. As part of the ability to modify, users of free software may also have access to and study the source code.

The concept of free software is the brainchild of Richard Stallman, head of the GNU Project. The best known example of free software is Linux, an operating system that is proposed as an alternative to Windows or other proprietary operating systems. Debian is an example of a distributor of a Linux package.

Free software is easily confused with freeware, a term describing software that can be freely downloaded and used but which may contain restrictions for modification and reuse.

Also see the very similar Open Source definition.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Email Alerts

Register now to receive SearchEnterpriseLinux.com-related news, tips and more, delivered to your inbox.
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

More News and Tutorials

  • Getting a handle on UCS: Vendor lock-in, interoperability and implementation

    The shortfalls of UCS include the potential for vendor lock-in and interoperability issues. Learn more about these and what you need to know to deploy a UCS in your data center. Some implementation considerations include storage, hypervisors, and a contingency plan in case your vendor changes course.

  • Getting a handle on UCS: Advantages and costs

    Unified computing systems (UCS) hold the promise of simplicity for data center, but the technology and associated costs may not be appropriate for every application. Learn about the potential of UCS to help your data center, and what you should consider prior to implementation.

  • Linux update on IBM System p

    Most machines running Linux are x86 PCs. IBM's System p and Linux go well together, and Ken Milberg explains why and what's new. He gives five reasons to run Linux on System p, and shares some of the options for PowerVM, IBM's virtualization platform.

Do you have something to add to this definition? Let us know.

Send your comments to techterms@whatis.com

There are Comments. Add yours.

 
TIP: Want to include a code block in your comment? Use <pre> or <code> tags around the desired text. Ex: <code>insert code</code>

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
Sort by: OldestNewest

Forgot Password?

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an email containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: