FLOSS and FOSS
by Richard Stallman
The two political camps in the free software community are the free
software movement and open source. The free software movement is a
computer users' freedom; we say that a nonfree program is an
injustice to its users. The open source camp declines to see the
issue as a matter of justice to the users, and bases its arguments on
To emphasize that “free software” refers to freedom and
not to price, we sometimes write or say “free/libre
software,” adding the French or Spanish word that means free in
the sense of freedom. In some contexts, it works to use just
A researcher studying practices and methods used by developers in
the free software community decided that these questions were
independent of the developers' political views, so he used the term
“FLOSS,” meaning “Free/Libre and Open Source
Software,” to explicitly avoid a preference between the two
political camps. If you wish to be neutral, this is a good way to do
it, since this makes the names of the two camps equally prominent.
Others use the term “FOSS,” which stands for
“Free and Open Source Software.” This is meant to mean the
same thing as “FLOSS,” but it is less clear, since it
fails to explain that “free” refers to freedom.
It also makes “free software” less visible than
“open source,” since it presents “open source”
prominently but splits “free software” apart.
Thus, if you want to be neutral between free software and open
source, the way to achieve that is to say “FLOSS,” not
We in the free software movement don't use either of these
terms, because we don't want to be neutral on the political question.
We stand for freedom, and we show it every time—by saying
“free” and “libre”.