An introduction to Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS)

What Is Free Software?

The term “free software” refers to more than just the monetary cost of software — it is a reference to the political philosophy of liberty. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has defined the term as software that complies with the following four freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

What Is Proprietary Software?

Proprietary software (or “non-free software”) is software that the publisher has licensed in a manner that limits the uses of the software, prevents modification and study of the source code, and prohibits any form of redistribution. Essentially, it is software that lacks some or all of the four freedoms mentioned above.

A Brief History of the Free Software Movement

The free software movement was started by Richard Stallman, a graduate of Harvard University and former employee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

During his time at MIT, Stallman worked with like-minded programmers. At MIT, software was not licensed in a restrictive manner and open collaboration was encouraged, but by the early 1980s almost all commercial software was licensed as propriety software.

Unhappy with the direction of the software industry toward limiting the freedom of programmers and users, Stallman founded the free software movement. The main objective of the free software movement is to promote the above-mentioned freedoms.

Benefits of Free Software over Proprietary Software

The list below mentions just a few of the many benefits of using free software over proprietary software:

  1. Free software has inherently better scope for being secure as it can be audited and patched by multiple security experts and community members.
  2. Free software is open-source and therefore is more privacy-friendly than closed-source proprietary software. You may personally inspect the code for what it does, or rely upon the community and independent auditors to do so;
  3. Free software does not restrict or limit the purposes for which a user can use the software;
  4. Free software allows programmers to add their improvements to the software without having to reinvent the wheel all over again and unnecessarily waste man-hours.

The Position of RZZT in the Free Software Movement

So, where does RZZT stand in all this?

RZZT’s primary objective is to help sustain free software projects that promote human rights by providing them with funds. Traditionally, fundraising for free software has been done by the programmers and project leaders. However, not everyone is good at raising funds, nor do they have the infrastructure and capability to do so. This means that not every free software project is financially sustainable.

This is where we come in. We raise funds for free software projects so that the software developers can continue to do what they do best — writing code — while we take care of the financial sustainability and viability of the project. This not only ensures greater chances of success for open-source projects, but also ensures that free software projects can be developed quicker as the programmers are not busy trying to procure funding and can instead focus on writing code.

We are required to ensure that at least 90% of the funds we receive go towards the development of free software that promotes human rights. The other 10% is kept aside for the upkeep and legal compliances of RZZT.

If you like the ideals for which RZZT stands, please donate!