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Free Software

Free software is a term introduced by Richard M Stallman after a problem with the sudden closing up of parts of software which previously you could just fix. It is usually stated in terms of the essential four freedoms:

  1. The freedom to run the program for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and make changes to make it work better
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified version to others, so everyone gets a chance to benefit from your improvements

As you can imagine, freedoms 1 & 3 are a bit hard to implement if you don't have access to the source code, and for this reason most open source and free software is actually delivered as source code, which if not scripts is then compiled into executable binaries.

See also the Free Software Definition of the Free Software Foundation.