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Free software is software that is distributed in a manner that allows its users to run the software for any purpose, to redistribute copies of, and to examine, study, and modify the source code. The term free software was coined in 1983, with free denoting the broad freedom given to users, rather than being available free of charge (i.e., freeware). Alternative terms for free software include software libre, libre software, and free and open source software (abbreviated FOSS or F/OSS). Open-source software is not necessarily free software, but free software is always open-source software.

Two conditions are required to satisfy this definition:

  1. Publication of the source code (the source in open-source software); and
  2. Affording users the rights described above.

Public domain software always satisfies the second condition because there are no legal restrictions on its use. Where software is copyrighted, satisfying the second condition requires distribution of the software with a free software license from the copyright owner that grants the specified rights.

The free software movement was launched in 1983 with the primary goal of developing free software replacements for the proprietary software that society had come to rely upon. Examples of well-known free software packages include GNU, the Linux kernel, Mozilla Firefox, the OpenOffice software suite, and, on network servers, FreeBSD, Samba, and the Apache web server.

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Audacity is a digital audio editor and recording application. Audacity is cross-platform and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and BSD. Audacity was created by Dominic Mazzoni while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University; Mazzoni now works at Google, but is still the main developer and maintainer of Audacity, with help from many others around the world. The latest beta release of Audacity is 1.3.11 (Beta),and the current stable version 1.2.6 released on 13 November 2006. As of 20 October 2009, it was the 6th most popular download from SourceForge, with 63 million downloads.


Although there was earlier free software, in 1983, Richard Stallman launched the free software movement and founded the Free Software Foundation, to promote the movement and to publish its own definition of free software. Others published alternative definitions of free software, including the Debian Free Software Guidelines and the Berkeley Software Distribution-based operating system communities.

In 1998, Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond began a campaign to market open source software and founded the Open Source Initiative, which espoused different goals and a different philosophy from Stallman's.

Operating systems


Impediments and challenges: Digital Rights ManagementTivoisationSoftware patents and free softwareTrusted ComputingProprietary softwareSCO-Linux controversiesBinary blobs

Adoption issues: OpenDocument formatvendor lock-inopen standardsGNU/Linux adoption

About licences: Free software licencesCopyleftList of FSF approved software licensesList of OSI approved software licenses

Common licences: GNU General Public LicenseGNU Lesser General Public LicenseModified BSD LicenseMozilla Public LicenseMIT licenseApache licensePermissive free software licences

History of…: History of free softwareHistory of the Linux kernelHistory of Mozilla Application SuiteHistory of Mozilla ThunderbirdHistory of Mozilla Firefox

Community: GNU/Linux user groupsfree software communityfree software movement

Groupings of software: Free audio softwareGraphics hardware and FOSSLAMP stackEmbedded GNU/LinuxFree Java implementationsFree and Open Source games • Security and privacy

Naming issues: GNU/Linux naming controversyAlternative terms for free softwareNaming conflict between Debian and Mozilla

Featured and Good content

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