Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 30 Mar 1999 15:39:51 -0500

   Date: 30 Mar 1999 19:41:45 -0000
   From: Russell Nelson <>

    >     > Anyhow, arguing these details misses my larger point, which is that I
    >     > believe that people have become able to speak of the differences
    >     > between free software and open source software.
    >    Some people talk about the differences between free software and
    >    GPL'ed software.

   Right.  You and I know that they mean the same thing.  People who say
   otherwise are misled.

Hmmm.  I don't know if I am quite ready to agree to that.  I think it
is correct to describe GPL software as free software, but I do
understand what people mean when they say that the BSD license is more
free than the GPL.  I don't think they are mistaken or misled.  I
think they simply have different priorities.

    > True.  I would have expressed myself better by saying that I believe
    > that people have become able to speak of the difference between the
    > free software community and the open source community, and that this
    > wasn't true when the term ``open source'' was first invented.

   Being about to talk about something doesn't mean it exists.  I have
   names for, and can describe: perpetual motion machines, the Loch Ness
   Monster, and monsters under the bed.  Open Source software *is* free
   software.  If you have any evidence otherwise, please tell me about

In this context, I'm uncomfortable with saying that open source
software is equivalent to free software.

Open source software is software that meets a particular set of
guidelines.  That follows from the way the term ``open source'' was

The definition of free software is harder to get a precise handle on.
That's why the term ``open source'' was invented.

It's that difference that makes me uncomfortable with saying that they
are equivalent.  People were never quite sure what ``free software''
meant, so the term ``open source'' was invented and given a precise
meaning.  That's fine, but you are trying to assert that the precise
definition of ``open source'' captures everything there is to say
about ``free,'' and I'm not sure about that.

Some days I think Mozilla is free software, some days I think that
maybe it isn't.  I always think it is open source software.

I have a similar confusion about qmail, which may or may not be free
software, but by my reading of the license is clearly not open source

I'm not trying to nitpick here, and I'm not trying to attack you or to
say that you are doing something wrong.  I'm just trying to express a
personal feeling, without trying to assert that I am necessarily
right.  In some sense open source software and free software are about
different things, so it's for me to say that they are equivalent.

   I think we're doing the right thing at the Open Source Initiative.
   Some people will always disagree.

I think that OSI is doing a right thing, and I don't agree with Gumby
that it is self-defeating or should disband.  (On the other hand, I'm
certainly not prepared to take a position on the dispute between OSI
and SPI--actually, I don't even know if it's still going on).

However, I think that OSI would better to serve the community,
whatever it is called, of which I believe both of us to be a part, by
working to stop the proliferation of open source licenses, and by
working to bring people into the larger community rather than merely
branding their license agreements.  For example, to mention Apple
again, putting the BSD sources out again with new copyrights on them
benefits few people; encouraging them and teaching them to integrate
their changes into existing BSD distributions would be better.