Karl Fogel

Karl Fogel at

I dislike the phrase "open source alternative to X" and try not to use it.

Casting something as an "alternative" sets up an obvious center/periphery dynamic that in this case is damaging to what I care about. For some of us, it's not an alternative: it's the first choice.

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Hey, Alexandre.  Had I done that, my comment would have been disconnected from my actual experience: I frequently encounter the phrase "open source alternative to" and only rarely encounter the phrase "free software alternative to".  I was talking about a phrase that others use that I decline to use, not a phrase of my choosing that I either do or don't use.

(I consider the terms synonymous anyway, and have ever since the term "open source" was coined for this usage, but that's a much more complex discussion of course.  https://opensource.org/faq#free-software has some of the background on why one might choose this interpretation.)

Karl Fogel at 2020-12-24T18:24:02Z

*nod*, I suppose our circles and feeds are different indeed, and the phrase you encounter more often, or the one that annoys you more, is different from mine ;-)
still, the point was that I'd have related more strongly with what you wrote had your experience been more like mine.  that was what I meant to express.  the negative feelings that "free software alternative to X" bring about in me are largely similar to those you described.
and yeah, when it comes to the software proper, the terms are very nearly synonymous, differing only in nearly-irrelevant corner cases.  they do often convey alignment or ignorance, since when it comes to philosophies, they express very different positions.  as a quote, it carries meanings intended by those you're quoting, but that doesn't make me like it ;-)
enjoyable holidays and a happier gnu year!

Alexandre Oliva at 2020-12-25T17:41:39Z

Karl Fogel likes this.

:-)  Yes, I understand.

I've actually always wondered about those alleged corner cases.  The FSF definition of software freedom and the OSI definition of open source *look* logically equivalent to me.  Some people have claimed that there are licenses that are open source but not free or vice versa -- well, the Sybase Open Watcom License [1] is the only specific claim I've heard made -- and I've always wanted to get time to evaluate this claim myself.  I've not heard what the actual argument is, and there are certainly other occasions where I've heard someone make a claim that a certain license is/isn't Free/OSS, or is/isn't compatible with some other license, and then when I've examined the claim in detail I've found that I didn't agree, or at least that the claim wasn't obviously correct.

Now, even if the two terms were to describe the exact same set of licenses, they could still carry different connotations, of course, and for many people they do.  But my own position is that if the freedom is built in to the definition, then that freedom must inevitably become a connotation, whether people wanted it to or not.  (I think one can see this happening, at a gradual and evolutionary way, in public communications from the OSI itself over the years, too.)

Anyway, Happy Gnu Year to you too!

Best regards,

Karl Fogel at 2020-12-26T00:20:42Z

Alexandre Oliva likes this.

the examples that first come to mind of non-equivalence and non-containment are:

* GNU autoconf; the license encompasses an additional permission that must be dropped if certain modifications are made.  as a result, in some cases you cannot distribute modified versions under the same license you could receive the original program.  this requirement in the complete licensing conditions appears to conflict with one of the bullets of the OSD, but it doesn't render the software non-Free

* Tivoized software: the OSI directors, back when I consulted them about this, didn't think that software distributed under tivoization-like anti-modification technical constraints caused it to fail to meet the OSD for the recipient, since they got the sources in conditions that meet the OSD (and the FSD), though the executable, in the tivoized scenario, is definitely non-Free Software

though these are real, rather than purely academic corner cases, and they could apply to an arbitrarily large set of software one way or another, nobody seems to be too worried about the differences.  those who care about OSS don't seem to care that autoconf-like licensing isn't strictly compliant with the definition, since they fall back to the FSD anyway, and those who care more about FS worry about tivoized software, but apparently don't assign so much relevance to OSS or the OSD.  so in the end the FSD seems to serve as the ultimate definition for everyone, though those who accept tivoized software also accept other proprietary software

Alexandre Oliva at 2020-12-26T12:32:39Z