What is FLOSS?

FLOSS is an abbreviation for Free/Libre/Open Source Software. The terms Free, Libre, and Open Source are all used to describe software that guarantees certain freedoms both to users and to programmers. Groups that promote the use of FLOSS software often use different terms to refer to it. For example, the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project often refer to "free" software, while other groups including Debian and the Open Source Initiative promote "Open Source" software. In English, the term "free" can mean either "no-cost" or "having liberty or freedom", so "libre software" is often used to emphasize that the software provides freedom rather than simply being free of cost.

The ideas encapsulated in the terms "free" and "open" are similar but not identical. While there are dozens of variations of these terms in use, all FLOSS software shares some of the same basic ideals of software freedom, including:

  • Freedom to run the program.
  • Free access to complete source code.
  • Freedom to study the code.
  • Freedom to modify the code.
  • Freedom to redistribute the modified code.

The specific freedoms provided by each software project can vary, but these ideas form the basis for most FLOSS licenses. From a user's perspective, FLOSS software is always free to use and to copy, both now and in the future. There are some unclear boundary lines and gray areas that must be kept in mind when copying or distributing FLOSS software, including trademarks and "proprietary" drivers in the Linux kernel. Each FLOSS software project includes detailed information on what rights are guaranteed by the software license. A wide variety of FLOSS is available for all common platforms, including BSD, Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.