Free Software – Concept, freedoms, types and examples

We explain what Free Software is and the freedoms that this type of program allows. Also, the types that exist and some examples.

Free software
Free software allows access to the source code to its users.

What is free software?

Free Software is called those computer programs that give their users, by explicit decision of their programmers and designers, the access to the source code or original programming code in which they were manufactured, so that you can copy, modify, personalize and distribute it freely. This gives rise, therefore, to multiple versions of the same program, whose appearance does not represent a legal or ethical violation of the original program.

The term Free Software is attributed to the American Richard Stallman, who was the founder of the Free Software Foundation (Free Software Foundation) in which a significant number of computer experts aspired to develop a totally free Operating System, which they called the GNU Project (To distinguish it from Unix).

This project would allow its advanced users to collaborate with its development and improvement, in a free and community way, going against traditional software companies, which guard the source code of their products.

Although many of the Free Software presentations are free or cost the equivalent of their distribution only (and not the payment of royalties), Free Software should not be confused with Freeware o Free software (usually in trial versions), nor should it be construed as an allegation in favor of piracy (theft of copyrighted software).
The idea is precisely to create software that belongs to those who use it and that can be adapted to their needs by themselves.

There is an important trend, especially in so-called Third World countries, to implement only Free Software in their official institutions or state organizations, thus replacing programs protected by copyright that generate annual expenses in license renewal.

This in addition to saving money provides greater autonomy in managing your information and it allows them to avoid risks to their sovereignty, since the free code of these pieces of software can be freely adapted to their specific needs.

Essential freedoms

Free software
Free software can be altered to perform desired functions.

Known as “the four essential freedoms”, the following set of permissions is essential to distinguish between Free Software and traditional commercial type.

  • Freedom # 0. Freedom to run the program as desired, for whatever purpose, without the need to notify anyone.
  • Freedom # 1. Freedom to study the operation of the program and alter it to perform the desired tasks. For this, free access to the source code of the program is a requirement.
  • Freedom # 2. Freedom to redistribute copies of the original program, for the enjoyment and help of the community, without the need to notify anyone.
  • Freedom # 3. Freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to third parties, without the need to notify anyone, allowing the entire community to benefit from alterations and new versions of the program.

A program is considered as Free Software if it gives its users all these described freedoms. Otherwise, it is not a free program. There are several non-free distributions of programs obtained by modifying the source code of these free programs, which is considered by the Free Software community to be unethical.

Types of free software

In principle, Free Software can be of any type, from operating systems to control in a personalized way the operation and resources of the computer, to applications adaptable to user needs, intervening video games, and peripheral management programs that can be modified to meet the specific requirements of various pieces of hardware.

Examples of free software

Free software
Chrome OS will use Google Chrome as its main interface.

Some of the most popular distributions or presentations in the world of Free Software are the following:

  • GNU / Linux. One of the most historically and popularly important programs, it has spearheaded the effort for open source software in the Internet world since 1983.
  • Chrome OS. Based on the Linux kernel, this operating system currently under development by Google Inc. will use the Google Chrome browser as its main interface and is 100% cloud-based.
  • VALO-CD. It is a CD with open source software designed to operate under the Microsoft Windows environment, developed by Finnish programmers in 2008.
  • OpenDisc. Another set of open source tools designed to work on Microsoft Windows, created in 2007 to educate users on the use of Linux.
  • Ubuntu. It is a free GNU / Linux distribution that uses GNOME technology as its virtual desktop environment, whose creator company survives by offering technical support to its users.