The free software community is an informal term that refers to the users and developers of free software as well as supporters of the free software movement. Much to the dismay of some free software community members the movement is sometimes referred to as the "open-source community". The Linux community is a subset of the free software community.
When the free software movement began in 1983, the community of users was mostly academics and computer programmers.
In the late 1990s, as free software became easier to use, many companies became users, distributors, and developers of free software.
Most communication is done over the Internet via mailing lists, wikis and forums, and some is done at conferences. This can also be seen in the widespread use of the collaborative software development model.
Some values which are nearly universal--as universal as values can be in a community of millions--are the preference for public discussion of technical matters, and opposition to software patents and parts of the DMCA. See software patents and free software.
Some arguments take on the fervor of "religious wars", such as the technical disputes from the 80s and early 90s over which text editor is better, Emacs or Vi/Vim, or even what version of a text editor is superior, GNU Emacs vs XEmacs.
Other conflicts exist over naming. These can occur because of differing opinions on historical accuracy, philosophical background or credit, such as the alternative terms for free software and the GNU/Linux naming controversy. And they can be caused by a conflict of business models and the use of trademarks, as is the case for the Naming conflict between Debian and Mozilla.
With the success of free software such as Linux, Apache HTTP Server, Mozilla Firefox, and OpenOffice.org, many companies have begun interacting with the free software community. Difficulties include the choice of free software licences, and the selection of what software will be released as free software.
An example of a relatively successful entry to the free software community is Sun Microsystems' July 19, 2000 release of the Star Office source code under the GNU Lesser General Public License and the successive development of OpenOffice.org on this foundation. This move was warmly received by the community since it did not have a mature office suite at the time. Sun's use of the community's preferred licence was also welcome, because it allowed source code to be shared with other projects.
An example of a more difficult entry was that of Real Networks. Real Networks wrote their own licence, and released only parts of their software suite. Most notably, the codec—the software needed to view Real Video files—was not released.