Free software

An operating system's computer screen, the screen completely covered by various free software applications.
Example of a modern free-software operating system running some representative applications. Shown are the Xfce desktop environment, the Firefox web browser, the Vim text editor, the GIMP image editor, and the VLC media player.

Free software, or libre software,[1][2] is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions.[3][4][5][6][7] Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users—individually or in cooperation with computer programmers—are free to do what they want with their copies of a free software (including profiting from them) regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program.[8][2] Computer programs are deemed free if they give users (not just the developer) ultimate control over the software and, subsequently, over their devices.[5][9]

The right to study and modify a computer program entails that source code—the preferred format for making changes—be made available to users of that program. While this is often called "access to source code" or "public availability", the Free Software Foundation recommends against thinking in those terms,[10] because it might give the impression that users have an obligation (as opposed to a right) to give non-users a copy of the program.

Although the term "free software" had already been used loosely in the past,[11] Richard Stallman is credited with tying it to the sense under discussion and starting the free-software movement in 1983, when he launched the GNU Project: a collaborative effort to create a freedom-respecting operating system, and to revive the spirit of cooperation once prevalent among hackers during the early days of computing.[12][13]

  1. ^ See GNU Project. "What is free software?". Free Software Foundation.
  2. ^ a b "Richard Stallman - Internet Hall of Fame". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  3. ^ Free Software Movement (
  4. ^ Philosophy of the GNU Project (
  5. ^ a b "Free software is software that gives you the user the freedom to share, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free".
  6. ^ "GNU Press - Free Software Foundation Online Shop - Buy GNU t-shirts, books, stickers and stuffed gnu toys". Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference softwarefreedom was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ Selling Free Software (
  9. ^ Cite error: The named reference initial-announcement was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  10. ^ "Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing: Access".
  11. ^ Cite error: The named reference infoworld1983 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  12. ^ Levi, Ran. "Richard Stallman and The History of Free Software and Open Source". Curious Minds Podcast.
  13. ^ Amit Garg, Ryan Burdett, Ishaan Shastri, Evan Parker. "GNU". Retrieved 2017-10-17.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

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