Technical words should be more frequently used in the software development business. While some unintentionally use them interchangeably, others completely misunderstand what they mean. Some of the most frequently misunderstood software words in the business include free software, open source, freeware, and shareware. Many people need to pay more attention to the importance of the software’s licensing during the development process. Software licensing rules specify how the code may be used and disseminated by licensees, which can significantly impact how widely a technology is adopted. 

Most current software is sold under a proprietary license that enables the publisher or inventor to keep all of the product’s intellectual property rights. Free and open-source software broadly refer to the same class of applications. However, both positions are supported by fundamentally different principles. Free software is a social movement, whereas open source is a development technique. Free software is an ethical need for the free software movement since only free software respects users freedom. Let’s discuss the difference between open-source and free software:

What is Open source software?

Open Source Software is something you can share with others and adapt to suit your needs without worrying about violating any license requirements. When it comes to open source, the software’s source code is made accessible to the public under open-source licenses like GNU, which permit you to alter and distribute the source code.

Open source software intended to be publicly accessible is known as open source software and anybody can view, alter, and distribute the code as they see appropriate. In open-source software, decentralized, collaborative development, peer review, and community production are used.

Advantages of Open source software

Freedom and flexibility of open source

The accessibility of the program is likely the best illustration of the values of open-source software, which are centered on freedom and flexibility. The majority of open-source programs can be downloaded and utilized right away from public repositories. Developers will no longer have to wait for licensing or procurement hurdles before beginning to improve their systems because restrictions on developer tools and building blocks have been removed. Additionally, having access to the source code enables programmers to become productive with the technology more rapidly and lowers the learning curve.

Considerably lower costs

Cost savings are the advantage of open-source software that is most frequently stated. Open-source software typically implies that you are not required to pay for the use of the program. You may handle license renewals without using procurement overhead. Enterprises can use the money they would have spent on software elsewhere, which is quite advantageous. With many communities using both closed and open components, the tale of entirely free software is evolving for some products, but for the most part, open-source software is still free.

Abundant support

Utilizing open-source software will provide you with plenty of help. Online communities make it simple to access open-source support, which is typically free. Numerous software providers also offer a range of paid support tiers in addition to free online support. The majority of companies that produce open-source software also provide maintenance and support.


Developers may observe how the code functions and make modifications to it thanks to the flexibility of open-source software. They are able to customise the software to their demands and those of their business. Additionally, one of the most significant benefits of this form of software is that it may change problematic parts of the app. Being free from vendor lock-in and having the freedom to scale and modify an application are both considered to be aspects of flexibility, making it one of the main benefits of open-source software.

Starting small

It is not only cost-effective but also advantageous to start small and evaluate open-source software on a smaller scale. Companies can check to verify if the proposed solution is the most excellent fit for them for starters. Teams frequently begin using open-source software in businesses before switching to versions with commercial support to meet their expanding needs. Consequently, this open-source benefit makes it simpler for businesses to experiment with various solutions and then expand them as necessary.

OSS communities enable innovation 

When someone is working on a product because they want to work on it, their personal drive to add creativity and contribute their best ideas is much higher. This is frequently what inspires enthusiast open source communities to create new and disruptive features and why you see open source projects leading the way in terms of disruption.

The pace of digital transformation has been faster than anyone could have predicted. Companies unable to keep up with innovation will quickly become obsolete in the coming decade. All organizations should be focused on modernizing and digitizing their products and assets, which includes a proactive and energetic strategy for the consumption and management of open source software.

Open source security through transparency

Many organizations are concerned about open source software security. All of a project’s source code is made available, and there will be more opportunities for white hat professionals to review it and make it more secure. This theory has been repeatedly demonstrated to be correct. Think about the Linux operating system. This operating system is widely regarded as one of the most secure software products available, and it is entirely open source. Businesses are rightfully concerned about their infrastructure and data security, and open source is far more secure than you might think.

What is free software?

Free software refers to software that respects the freedom and community of its users. It roughly translates to the users’ ability to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software. As a result, free software is a matter of liberty rather than price.

Advantages of free software

You can offload maintenance

You may find a free software package that does 99% of your requirements, but the remaining 1% is missing. You can take the source code and add the final 1% because it is free software. Even better, if you return your contributions to the original projects, they will incorporate and maintain them in the future. This means that if there are any significant changes, you don’t have to worry about it you don’t have to spend time re-merging the changes because someone else in the community will most likely do it.

Provides full freedom

Initially, computer manufacturers focused solely on hardware innovation, not software as a business asset. Because most computer users were scientists and technicians capable of modifying software, hardware was distributed with software pre-installed. Later, high-level programming languages that were compatible with almost every type of computer were introduced.

That meant that even less efficient hardware designs could be improved. As a result, profit margins for hardware manufacturers who led design innovations and considered hardware their only business assets fell. They had to start treating software as an essential component of their hardware sales and enforcing strict copyright policies. As a result, proprietary software has grown in popularity.

No spying on users

Users’ activity can be easily spied on if they have no control over the software they use. The developer of proprietary software frequently includes features that prevent users from sharing it with others. Anyone who purchases proprietary software must sign a licensing agreement before using it. By doing so, they agree that the vendor has the right to inspect challenging drive content at any time. This is a violation of your privacy because your computers contain personal information and records of your daily activities.

Promotion for the paid version

Freeware can help you promote your paid software. If the end user enjoys freeware features, they may require additional features. You can request feedback on your freeware software. Users will give your software authority if you get reviews. As more users leave reviews, the audience gains trust in the freeware software and wishes to purchase the paid version. The paid version of the software will include additional features that will assist users in their work.

Support from the large community

This software has good support because it is freeware and has a large number of users. On the internet, you can find forums where you can get assistance with that software. There are experts on the official website of that freeware software who can help you resolve your issue. Only some freeware has active community support, but most popular software does.

Provides better security

It is common knowledge that proprietary software poses a security risk to users. Security flaws have a long history. Proprietary software does not always prevent the spread of viruses and the ability of hackers to take over people’s computers and send spam. Because the software is classified, all users rely on the corporation to resolve such issues.

Truly user oriented

One of the main claims made by proprietary software is that free software could be more user-friendly. A proprietary vendor used to listen to the needs of its customers and then respond and develop accordingly. However, companies are developing strategies that assume all end users have the exact needs.

Bottom line

Finally, those mentioned above are about the difference between open source and free software. In most cases, the terms free software and open-source software are interchangeable, and whether one prefers one over the other is usually a matter of semantics or philosophical perspective.