Skip to main content.

Sat, 18 Sep 2010

When "free software" got a new name

On January 30, 1998, gushed about the ethical underpinnings of the free software movement. The movement was growing:

Netscape's bold move last week [was] to free the source code of its browser is a prime-time endorsement for no-cost, build-it-yourself software.

The free software movement was in its second decade. In the first decade, corporations learned to tolerate it. In the late '90s, a transition was underway. Red Hat was one of the first companies ostensibly founded on free software principles. But as free software grew, some were concerned that its name was holding it back. The article explains with a link to a page within

But "free software" is an ambiguous term - there is a difference in meaning between the cultures of PC-based proprietary systems and the Net-centric UNIX worlds.

Michael Stutz, the author of the piece, surveyed the writing of Eric S. Raymond and interviewed luminaries like Bob Young, Russell Nelson, and Marc Andreessen. The article is about the creation of a new term for the freely-reusable code produced by the free software movement.

As proponents of free software often point out, while this software can be free-of-cost - that is, gratis - the real issue is about freedom, or human liberty. So it is really freed software.

Yes, that's right -- freed software. The emphasis is in the original.

Most of us know the names Eric S. Raymond and Russ Nelson as people involved early-on in the Open Source Initiative. I guess January 1998 is before they decided on the "open source" name.

Today, the community is divided into people who think it's important to say "free software" and the rest who call it "open source." We'd all agree with the following statement from the article:

"Freed software is a big win for society in general," said Russell Nelson.

And that's today's random page from the history books.

[] permanent link and comments

Comment form

  • The following HTML is supported: <a href>, <em>, <i>, <b>, <blockquote>, <br/>, <p>, <abbr>, <acronym>, <big>, <cite>, <code>, <dfn>, <kbd>, <pre>, <small> <strong>, <sub>, <sup>, <tt>, <var>
  • I do not display your email address. It is for my personal use only.

Your email address: 
Your website: