Proposal: Open Source

To some people, there is an important distinction between Free Software and Open Source Software, at a philosophical level. I'm not really interested in having that fight myself, but it's actually particularly for that reason that I think we should choose a name that doesn't implicitly take a side. The acronym FLOSS, for Free/Libre and Open Source Software, is nice for this (see wikipedia on the topic), if a bit obscure as an acronym and a mouthful expanded....

  • 7
    When I would read "FLOSS Stackexchange" in the network list, my first thought would be "Finally, a stackexchange site about dental hygiene!"
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 11:00
  • I believe most libre software is open source. Ergo any distinction will not confuse people as one is practically a superset of the other. There is no side to pick.
    – jiggunjer
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


I believe that the term "Open Source" is the one most accessible to a general audience.

People like Richard Stallman make good points about why the term "free software" might be better, but unfortunately the semantics of the term did not enter the general language use. When you use the term "free software", most people still think of free as in beer, not free as in freedom. So when we call the site "Free Software Stackexchange" we will receive lots of questions about software which is proprietary but free to download, which is not what this website is about.

Using "Free and Open Source Stackexchange" (is there a length limit for site names?) doesn't solve the problem either. Because "Free" does mean "Free as in beer" for most people, it will give the misconception that it implies that open source must also be free as in beer to be on-topic for this site and that open source software must not cost anything, which is very wrong and would alienate many of the most interesting topics from this site.

The acronym "FLOSS" is even worse, because even fewer people know what it actually means. Also, when you don't know that the context is software, a website "FLOSS stackexchange" would sound more like a website about dental hygiene than one about free and libre (who uses the term "libre" anyway?) open source software.

For that reasons I believe that "Open Source Stackexchange" is still the least ambiguous name we can use.

However, I think that the term free software should appear in the site description, preferably in a way that it makes clear we are talking about free as in freedom.

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    You're really giving good reasons why both terms should be in the name. Commented May 13, 2015 at 17:47
  • 1
    FWIW, RMS's points are not "about why the term "free software" might be better. The question is about the content, not the container - the meaning/behavior/licensing of free software vs that of open-source software. It is true that the latter is more general. But the question RMS raises and the stance he takes is not only about the names; it is about what's behind the names.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 21:10
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    I thought FOSS was more usual than FLOSS, though it seems both versions are used. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 15:18

For people who care about free software, the term "Open Source" is strongly associated with one specific organization: The Open Source Initiative (OSI). Choosing that very term as name for the site seems biased and will probably preclude participation from people who care about free software, but at the same time depreciate the politics and the philosophy of the OSI. I believe that more people than Richard M. Stallman belong to this group.

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