October 2004

Free / Libre and Open Source Software (floss)

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Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS)1 represents a new and growing phenomenon, which is much discussed these days as it implies a radically new method of production, cooperation and exchange. In this introduction we argue that Open Source Software (OSS) besides its technical advantages has a special importance in the context of development cooperation.

The philosophy behind OSS
The knowledge that is embedded in operating systems and software programmes to make them run, also known as the source code, can be either 'closed' and 'proprietary', or 'open', that is public and shared. FLOSS is a software which has its source code available, that may be used, copied, and distributed with or without modifications, and that may be offered either with or without a fee.

Although the open source movement goes back to almost forty years, OSS has become a mainstream-topic only recently. Worldwide, more and more organisations and governments are using open source. This ongoing adoption can be attributed to two reasons, namely, the maturing of some key open source products like GNU/Linux and office production software (Open Office) and the increased resistance to the effective monopoly of Microsoft in the worldwide software market. The (still dominant) closed format of software seems to suit corporate interests well, but at the same time it appears to be increasingly at odds with the current shift from 'tangible' (concrete products and services), towards 'intangible'

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