Exploring the Concept of ‘Libre Software’
Software labeled as ‘libre’ grants individuals the autonomy to examine, alter, redistribute, and utilize the code without any constraints.
The ethos behind WordPress’s decision to adopt the libre software model is rooted in a commitment to transparency and communal sharing, fostering an environment that is both inviting and inclusive.
Unpacking ’Libre’ in Software
Understanding ‘libre’ in the context of software is akin to appreciating the concept of ‘liberty’ rather than ‘gratis’.
Consider the allure of complimentary beverages at social gatherings, where attendees can indulge without financial concern. This scenario illustrates ‘gratis’ as in ‘without cost’.
WordPress’s popularity can be partly attributed to its cost-free nature. Although there are additional expenses associated with website creation, acquiring WordPress itself incurs no charges.
However, the essence of libre software transcends cost and emphasizes the principle of freedom.
Richard Stallman initiated the Libre Software movement in 1989, driven by concerns over increasingly restrictive software licenses. This movement extends beyond technology, embodying a societal crusade.
Stallman’s vision was to safeguard user freedoms, enabling them to share software and assist others, a practice often prohibited by proprietary licenses.
To realize this vision, he introduced a license that would uphold these freedoms. The term ‘libre software’ typically refers to programs released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), including Stallman’s GNU operating system.
Deciphering the GPL
The GPL, overseen by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), has undergone revisions to better preserve user freedoms.
Envision the GPL as a ‘Charter of Liberties’ for software, offering four core freedoms:
- The liberty to operate the software for any intent.
- The liberty to scrutinize and modify the source code to suit any need.
- The liberty to disseminate the software to others.
- The liberty to share your personalized versions of the software.
The sole stipulation is that any shared adaptations of GPL software must also be licensed under the GPL. This concept, known as ‘copyleft’, ensures the perpetuation of software freedom.
WordPress operates under the GPLv2 license, guaranteeing its ongoing free availability and reliance on a collaborative community rather than a singular corporate entity.
For an in-depth look, consider exploring What is the GPL?
Libre vs. Open Source: A Comparative Analysis
‘Open source’ denotes software that is accessible for examination, modification, and distribution. It represents a movement as well, with the Open Source Initiative at the forefront.
They formulated the Open Source Definition, which outlines ten criteria for open source software. Its objectives align closely with those of libre software:
- Permission for others to distribute open source software, either gratis or for a fee.
- Allowance for software modifications, which must be shared under identical terms as the original.
- Advocacy against discrimination towards any individual, group, or usage purpose.
While both movements share similar goals, their underlying philosophies differ.
Libre software champions a societal ethos of freedom, whereas open source emphasizes the commercial benefits of code sharing, recognizing its potential for collaborative development.
Open-source software encompasses various licenses. For instance, WordPress is under GPLv2, the Apache web server software uses an Apache license, and PHP is available under both GPL and PHP licenses.
WordPress embodies both libre and open-source software. Due to the significant overlap, it is sometimes referred to as FOSS (free and open-source software) or FLOSS (free/libre/open-source software).
For further insights, visit What is Open Source?
WordPress’s Business Model Despite Being Libre
WordPress is not the property of any single corporation or individual; it is a collective open-source project enriched by the contributions of countless skilled participants.
A dedicated team of developers spearheads the project, but contributions from the broader WordPress community are integral to its success. Programmers can offer patches and resolve issues, while users can propose new features.
Although the WordPress team does not profit directly from the software, they can generate revenue through WordPress-related services.
For instance, the WP Think team has crafted a suite of premium WordPress plugins that provide advanced functionalities for a subscription fee.
To delve deeper, review Why is WordPress Free? What are the Costs? What is the Catch?
This guide aims to enhance your understanding of libre software. For additional resources, peruse the list below, which includes articles offering valuable WordPress tips, tricks, and strategies.