Open source: Free as in beer!

The word free in English means both free as is free speech, and free as in free beer. The confusion between the meanings of the word is one reason that talking about open source has become more popular lately than the closely related concept of Free Software. It’s often repeated that Free Software is free as in speech, not free as in beer. But on fact, it’s often free as in beer as well.

If you go out with your friends to a pub, and drink the free beer they buy for you all evening, without ever buying rounds back, and you’ll see that sooner or later they’ll stop calling you for the Fridays pub round. Free beer is free only for leeches. For friends it is free in times of need, but you need then to buy beer for your friend in times of their need. Open source works like this. You can download the free software and use it, but it is assumed that you somehow will help out. Even if you can not help develop the software, you can help write documentation, of help others out when they have problems, or at the very least, help spread the word about the wonderful software.

Open source software is a communal effort. The users are the ones who stand behind the software, creating it, document it and tell people about it. Open source communities are a limited example of open societies, working today.

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