When it comes to the word “free” in reference to open source, most people assume they do not have to pay a cent for the software. Open source, however, does have its costs, people are just free to use it as they wish. Infoworld has touched upon this topic in the article, “Open Source Equals Software Freedom, Not Free Software.” The author, Simon Phipps, discusses how the term “free” has soured the meaning open source. He takes an idea from George Lakoff—the price frame. A price frame is when an item begins to be associated with money. Open source was coined as “free” and people began to think all open source software did not require the exchange of currency. It is true, so long as your program the software yourself.
Users turned to the open source world, because they figured they could save money on proprietary licenses (which is the major costs of all commercial software). Open source vendors, who had built a product on open source platforms, ran into problems where they were almost akin to the proprietary vendors. This moved them away from open source ideals. Real open source pulls on the community factor, where developers have the ability to share ideas and inspiration without hindrance.
Phipps put it this way:
What all these projects have in common is that their participants engage within a ‘flexibility frame.’ Open source allows them to innovate, to leverage and complement the skills of others, and to respond to change without requiring the permission of others first. These are all features of the flexibility that open source delivers. When you can use the software and its source code for any purpose without needing to gain the permission of another party, when you can decide for yourself what problems need fixing and how to fix them, you’re liberated to lead your industry.
Free software is only as free as its users. Open source vendors should be able to make a profit off their products, so long as it does not interfere with the open source platform’s distribution for other users. An example of an open source company is LucidWorks, based on the Apache Lucene search platform. LucidWorks is a strong commercial company founded on Lucene. Other software companies use Lucene for their purposes, many do not have the robustness offered by LucidWorks.
Whitney Grace, October 30, 2012