In the review queue, I just saw the tag being created, and a tag wiki excerpt being proposed. I find that tag confusing: we already have for "free of charge", and . So what should that new one be? The proposed tag excerpt reads:

Free software, software libre, or libre software is computer software that gives users the freedom to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, modify, and distribute the original software and the adapted versions.

To me, that sounds like a duplicate to – but who reads tag wikis or excerpts? The majority of users is more likely to confuse this with . Possible actions:

  • drop it altogether (draw-back: it might pop up again, unless blacklisted)
  • make it a synonym to (draw-back: possible confusion)
  • leave it as-is (not really, as even more confusion)
  • make it a synonym to , while dropping its proposed excerpt/wiki (draw-back: again some confusion)

Other suggestions?

  • 1
    Here's the current chat about it. Here's the question about it (look in comments) Dec 24, 2014 at 12:26
  • free-software means 'free as in free speech', rather than gratis which means 'free as in beer' Dec 24, 2014 at 12:28
  • I agree with the dupe of open-source, because (correct me if I'm wrong), open-source generally means 1. free 2. modify/redistribute code. Dec 24, 2014 at 12:30
  • 1
    There can be (and is) open-source software you still have to pay for (usually they ask for donations, though; but you might have to pay to get a compiled version – or compile it yourself from the open-source code), so there is a difference: 1. no, 2. yes
    – Izzy Mod
    Dec 24, 2014 at 13:12

4 Answers 4


Now that we've had some discussion, let me sum up a potential solution I think we should chose:

  • We already have and . So when needed, the two can be used side-by-side.
  • There's no need for another "free-X" tag. Though Pandya pointed out what it is, estimated 95% of all users wouldn't see the difference anyway – too difficult for the average user to follow the subtle nuances.
  • If you have such specific requirements, state so in the question (as ᔕᖺᘎᕊ pointed out).
  • Let's "destroy" the "redundant" tag: the questions using it should be re-tagged correctly (deciding by what's asked to either , , or both)
  • If possible, black-list free-software to avoid it being re-created. As pointed out: making it a synonym wouldn't be of much help, as it's doubtful it will "always point to the correct tag"
  • 1
    Agreed by me... Makes sense and works well for the majority of users I think. Jan 5, 2015 at 12:44
  • 2
    In other words, maintain the status quo. Jan 5, 2015 at 21:07
  • 2
    @Gilles Yes. Which means we've to deal with the already created free-software flag. Shall we kill it? My point: See bullet 4+5. Do we have a consensus for that?
    – Izzy Mod
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:34
  • 2
    I think we need to blacklist this. See this, this, and this suggested edit - Pandya wants this tag! Mar 1, 2015 at 10:25
  • @ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Pandya even participated in our discussion, he should know better. I've rejected his edits with an appropriate comment, and also placed a comment on his answer here: as he knows the majority doesn't share his wants, it's pretty indecent to go ahead and create the tag nevertheless – and even re-tagging other questions to it.
    – Izzy Mod
    Mar 1, 2015 at 15:10
  • @Izzy True - I was just thinking if (s)he was being insistent, we'd have to blacklist the tag... Mar 1, 2015 at 15:11
  • 1
    @ᔕᖺᘎᕊ If it's just one person, the mods might have different ways to deal with that. Blacklisting a tag is not an easy task, as I've been told. But if it pops up again and again by different users, that might be required, yes.
    – Izzy Mod
    Mar 1, 2015 at 15:16

How "free software" differs from "opensource"? :-

The following details available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software#Naming:

The FSF recommends using the term "free software" rather than "open-source software" because, as they state in a paper on Free Software philosophy, the latter term and the associated marketing campaign focuses on the technical issues of software development, avoiding the issue of user freedoms. The FSF also notes that "Open Source" has exactly one specific meaning in common English, namely that "you can look at the source code." Stallman states that while the term "Free Software" can lead to two different interpretations, one of them is consistent with FSF definition of Free Software so there is at least some chance that it could be understood properly, unlike the term "Open Source". Stallman has also stated that considering the practical advantages of free software is like considering the practical advantages of not being handcuffed in that it is not necessary for an individual to consider practical reasons in order to realize that being handcuffed restricts their freedom. "Libre" is often used to avoid the ambiguity of the word "free" in English language; see Gratis versus libre.

Also visit following from http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html:-

Open Source?

Another group has started using the term “open source” to mean something close (but not identical) to “free software”. We prefer the term “free software” because, once you have heard that it refers to freedom rather than price, it calls to mind freedom. The word “open” never refers to freedom.

Ultimately The Definition of free software is as follows: (From GNU / Wikipedia > Free_software#Definition)

A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms:

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

Also Visit:

Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software

  • 1
    Nice summary, Pandya. But what do you suggest we should do, based on that? Reading between the lines: making it a synonym to open-source? That's what I think would be the "most technically correct" variant indeed – though I'm afraid too many users will confuse that with the "free beer" variant, and we will have discussions on that later.
    – Izzy Mod
    Dec 24, 2014 at 13:15
  • @Izzy I think free-software should be separate tag which can be used when question(s) deals with software that respect user's freedom. And for the questions about open source software or deals with source code then we've already tag open-source
    – Pandya
    Dec 24, 2014 at 17:16
  • 4
    Uh-oh... And you thing there's any average user getting what that should mean? They want something without having to pay for, start typing "free" – and there you go. Raw guess: 90%+ don't even bother checking the tag excerpt popping up – let alone reading a complicated story. The freedom you describe is already covered by open-source (freedoms 1-3 at least – I wouldn't like someone using my software for war, terrorism, abuse, etc; so though it's open-source, freedom-0 goes a bit too far ;).
    – Izzy Mod
    Dec 24, 2014 at 17:25
  • @Izzy OK I don't know expected behavior on SE network. may free-software be synonymous to open-source
    – Pandya
    Dec 24, 2014 at 17:29
  • 1
    I think SR would be smart to switch to using FSFs vocabulary. There is no point in adding confusion to any already confusing topic. yes, most readers won't bother to distinguish well at least initially but at least you will have an authoritative reference. I suggest using "free-software"; making "gratis" a synonym of that; and revising "open-source" to state (perhaps SHOUT) that it only means "you can read the source; see free-software for an alternative".
    – Ira Baxter
    Dec 25, 2014 at 11:16
  • 1
    Pandya, you've seen this community decided against this tag – and you even participated in its discussion. It's pretty indecent you nevertheless go ahead and create it. Please stop that.
    – Izzy Mod
    Mar 1, 2015 at 15:07
  • 1
    @Izzy OK. I will not use free-software tag again. Instead I will specify it in question and will tag it to opensource.
    – Pandya
    Mar 3, 2015 at 14:25

(The following dosen't represent an official moderator viewpoint. I'm bringing up these points for the sake of discussion).

I have a few problems with the general idea of this tag.

In theory, tags are meant to aid searchability. On its own these tags don't particularly help there.

Secondly, asking specifically for 'gratis' and 'libre' software feels like it segments the possible range of questions too much.

Personally I'd prefer questions and answers focused on the technical merits and demerits of a piece of software, rather than the ideology.

In a practical pragmatic sense, unless you need to be free to modify a software, licence shouldn't matter as much.

  • 1
    I partly disagree. There are good reasons why one would look for "gratis open-source" software specifically: think e.g. of schools (no money plus education AKA "poor education"). So the two tags gratis and open-source to me absolutely make sense. The tag free-software to me does not make any sense, as it always will cause confusion – regardless what it's supposed to mean. I'd suggested to "delete and blacklist" straight away; I just remember the "blacklist" part being a bit tricky, but IMHO might be essential then.
    – Izzy Mod
    Dec 24, 2014 at 13:19
  • 3
    It is not just ideology. When looking for a library, license is one of the most important requirements. Choosing a piece of software without thinking about the license could have terrible consequences.
    – Nicolas Raoul Mod
    Jan 5, 2015 at 15:16
  • Which is covered in my last point. You could also have this in your problem definition, where it belongs. Jan 5, 2015 at 15:24

I think we should do this:

  • If we do create , then make that a synonym of , because most people will think free-software == free == gratis
  • If you want complete freedom over the software, state so in the question, and if absolutely necessary, create a tag, stating the freedom aspects in the tag-wiki, although 1/3 people probably read them...

At the end of the day, although there may be more technical terms that correctly describe things - we need to make sure that the mass population of the site, and especially newcomers know what tags they should use simple by hovering over the tags (the excerpt) and we can't possibly describe freedom as well as free (in terms of price) in that short excerpt.

  • 1
    A freedom tag again would be misleading: freedom of what? Remember, most people don't read tag excerpts (let alone wikis), so that could be pointing to petitions and whatsnots. As already stated, free-software (however interpreted) leads to confusion as well. We don't need to create the free-software tag, my question was rather about destroying it (for being confusing). I'd rather go with one sentence of your answer: "state so in the question". Additionally, use both the gratis and the open-source tags.
    – Izzy Mod
    Jan 5, 2015 at 12:24
  • @Izzy Sure - no need to create the free-software tag, I did say if ;p. State in the question whether you want complete freedom and use both tags, which satisfies Freedom 1 and Freedom 3 requirements already. Jan 5, 2015 at 12:27
  • You misunderstood me. No "if" – the tag was already created, which made me creating this question.
    – Izzy Mod
    Jan 5, 2015 at 12:36
  • @Izzy I understand, I was talking in the future, after we had already destroyed the tag :P Jan 5, 2015 at 12:40
  • 1
    For that future, I'd recommend the blacklisting to avoid it :)
    – Izzy Mod
    Jan 5, 2015 at 13:34
  • @Izzy Yeah it's already been done in the future ;p Jan 5, 2015 at 13:35

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