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“Commercial” is not the opposite of Free-Libre / Open Source Software

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When I talk with with other people about Free-Libre / Open Source Software (FLOSS), I still hear a lot of people mistakenly use the term “commercial software” as if it had the opposite meaning of FLOSS (aka open source software, Free-Libre Software, or OSS/FS).

That’s in spite of (1) the rise in commercial development and support for FLOSS, (2) most FLOSS projects’ goal to incorporate improvements, which are actually a form of financial gain, (3) official definitions of “commercial item” that include FLOSS, and (4) FLOSS licenses and projects that clearly approve of commercial support. Terms like “proprietary software” or “closed source” are plausible antonyms of FLOSS, but “commercial” is absurd as an antonym. In this essay I’ll explain why it’s so important to understand that “commercial” is not the opposite of FLOSS, and then give examples of each of those four points to justify the claim. The essay then notes that many do not make this mistake, briefly notes some alternatives, and ends with some conclusions.

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