• free code

last modified May 4, 2019 by danielstrypeybruce

TL;DR 'free code' is just another way of saying the same thing people mean when they use the more common phrases "free software" (*not* freeware) and "open source".

It's an accident of history that when the US organization that champions the software freedoms of computer users was founded, it was named the "Free Software Foundation", not the "Software Freedom Foundation". Because of that naming choice, software freedom activists spend an inordinate amount of time explaining that when we talk about "free software", we're talking about "free as in speech, not free as in beer". Another consequence of this confusion was the meeting where the phrase "open source" was coined by Christine Peterson, leading to the creation of the Open Source Definition (based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines drafted by Bruce Perens), and the founding of the Open Source Initiative. This led to a period of competition for thought leadership of the libre software movement, between the FSF (broadly representing the anti-corporate factions) and OSI (broadly representing the corporate-friendly and money-curious factions), with one side claiming that "open source misses the point" and the other side calling them "neckbeards" and so on.

'Free code' is a neologism I (Strypey) coined in an attempt to bridge the divide. Unlike "open source" and other compromise terms like "FOSS", "FLOSS", and "FLO", it includes the word "free", emphasizing our freedoms to use, study, share, modify, and redistribute the code. Unlike "free software" though, clarifies that the software or service may not be free-of-charge ("free as in beer"), because it's the code they are made from that is free ("as in speech"). To run with the beer metaphor, water is free (or at least it ought to be), but people may charge you for brewing it into drinkable beer, or delivering that beer to where you drink it.