FLOSS Wins

Very often, folks want to refer to both the free and open source software communities in a way that is inclusive of and respectful of groups who identify with either term. Saying "free and open source software" is a mouthful. That said, there was no been consensus on what we should do instead.

The Wikipedia article on alternative terms for free software suggests that FOSS, F/OSS, FLOSS, and "software libre" are contenders. I’ve heard all. Of course, the choice of 4+ competing alternative terms is probably worse than the problem we were seeking to solve.

In academic circles, the big debate seems to be between FOSS and FLOSS. I was always a FOSS partisan. But I’ve seen increased momentum on the FLOSS side and I’m ready to declare that FLOSS has won.

I know it makes you think of dental hygiene and I agree that it is unfortunate. It wasn’t my first choice either. But I can see where things are going. FLOSS Manuals and the folks at the FLOSS Research Group at Syracuse who launched the FLOSSHub and the associated FLOSS Papers deserve some of the credit.

If we can get over the irony of having spent so much time arguing over what was intended to be compromise terminology in the first place, lets see if we actually start talking to each other.

7 thoughts on “FLOSS Wins”

  1. Don’t forget, in EU:

    * FLOSSImpact
    * FLOSSWorld
    * FLOSSInclude
    * FLOSSMetrics

    We started to take care of our teeth a long time ago. No, OK, seriously, in EU the winner was clear since some years ago the EU Commission adopted the term FLOSS to design any kind of software released under a libre software license. Note that I also prefer libre software, perhaps because I’m Spanish, and I work for the LibreSoftware group, (for this time, at least, Spanish looks like the best language to convey the essence of the whole movement).

  2. Thanks Mako, thank you for declaring your winner :)

    Momentum around my homeland Cádiz is to call it Software Libre, but that’s because of being Spaniards. :)))  The issue goes with English speakers and, more importantly, English speakers who are users.

    I sort of speak English so whatever it is, my voice would go that it should include a big F for freedom or a big L for libertad… Actually it is not such a disgrace to borrow the term Libre (which is not tainted with ambiguity and as a plus comes from Latin, a common root for both English and Spanish languages). However, users and supporters will decide through time.

    It is not new, it already had a name… Anyways. As a supporter, I suggest using the term with the neatest ability to convey indisputable freedom and the strongest potential of impact within community. :)

    Also, capitalization is a good thing from a marketing point of view. Let we make it big, that’s how they like in the market, ain’t it?

    Obviously not everyone will like that approach and avoid calling it Free or Libre, but they are free to do that too. Open Source is discarded to engulf the other terms because it has proven not to speak about freedom at all. That will stay so provided there is people standing fast and defending their digital Freedom.

    Enough said. Be well in Freedom… Long live Floss or whatever rocks most!

  3. I don’t like all the abbreviations. There are several reasons. Let me enumerate them:

    1. It combines all possible confusions. Language is never easy and Free Software as well as Open Source allow different interpretations. When you combine this terms you also combine all possible misunderstandings which makes it even harder to explain.

    One example I have seen already a few times: “free” can mean free as in freedom and free as in gratis. That’s two natural meanings. Now if you talk about “Free Open Source Software” many people see “free” as an adjective to Open Source Software. Hence they think FLOSS people talk about free as in gratis Open Source/Libre Software” (because the freedom aspect is already mentioned by the term libre). And People who talk about “Open Source” or “Libre Software” talk about commercial software. That’s a missunderstandig I already heard and read many times.

    Now you can mix in all the other miss understandigs, e.g. “Open Source means you can look at the code not less but also not more”. And you can see what a uncontrollable composition of missunderstand you can create with FOSS or FLOSS.

    It’s even more confusing if people mix up the terms. This leads to writings like:
    “…Foo is Free Software. Bacause Bar is Open Source it allows you to…”

    For you and me it is not hard to read. We both know that “Open Source” and “Free Software” describes the same set of software. But what happens with people new to free software? They will seek a difference between foo and bar to explain why one is “free software” and the other one is “open source”.

    2. Especially form an academic point of few I consider it stupid to say 2 or 3 times the same. Open Source, Libre Software an Free Software describe the same set of software. That’s become even more clear if you look at the history of this term but I don’t think I have explain this to you and your readers.

    So why should I say three times the same? If you talk about “potato” than france speaking people will call it “patate”, german people will kall it “Kartoffel” and in some reagion of germany people will call it “Erdäpfel”. But nobody would come to the conclusion to call it PPKE (potato/patate/kartoffel/erdäpfel) just to make everyone happy. Depending of the poeple who write it you will find texts which uses “potato”, “kartoffel”, etc. But nobody will use all terms a once.

    So why should we do this if we talk about free software (you see, that’s my term of choice)? People who prefer the term free software can use this term if they talk in non english language they may translate it, e.g. “freie software”, “logical libre”,… People who prefer Open Source can use this term and also translate it sometimes in their mother tongue, e.g “quellenoffene software”.

    In my view It’s much less confusion than mentioning three times the same, combine all possible missunderstandings and let people think that there must be some differences if there are none.

    So I always suggest to people to use the term they like. Be it “free software”, “open source”, or any translation of this term. But they should make a decision and than use it continuously.

    Especially in science clear thinking is important. And i think to think clearly it’s not helpful to mention three times the same but use one term and stick to the term and his definition.

    That’s the two main reasons I’m in favor of “Open Source” or “Free Software”. People should pick on and keep it. Even if I’m definitely a “free software guy” I prefer if people speak continiously about “Open Source” rather than mix both terms or use acronyms like FOSS or FLOSS.

    Continuously is the key and not to say three times the same or mix up the terms just to “make everyone happy”.

  4. I’m just glad someone made up their mind! It’s always distracting when describing to an “outsider” that they may have heard of some of the terms describing free software. Then I have to explain a difference between free software and “freeware”. Suddenly, my conversation goes from “hey, here’s cool stuff” to an exercise in semantics.

    Now I’ll just say “FLOSS”. None of the plaque buildup like you get with proprietary software.

    Any chance we can rally for consistency in the Ubuntu and Debian communities and media?

  5. I’m just glad someone made up their mind! It’s always distracting when describing to an “outsider” that they may have heard of some of the terms describing free software. Then I have to explain a difference between free software and “freeware”. Suddenly, my conversation goes from “hey, here’s cool stuff” to an exercise in semantics.

    Now I’ll just say “FLOSS”. None of the plaque buildup like you get with proprietary software.

    Any chance we can rally for consistency in the Ubuntu and Debian communities and media?

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