Free-as-in-What?

Posted 2006.07.18 0.00 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Lately I’ve been coming across discussions and questioning on what the word free means. Especially in the context of software, or other electronic media.

I kept coming across this phrase free-as-in-beer which I never understood – beer’s not free, at least not around these parts. (Almost $2 a bottle for gosh sake!) So I was having trouble understanding what they were trying to say.

Turns out the problem is really with the English language. The word free, like so many other words in this language, has many meanings. There’s free, like no charge, and then there’s free, like free in spirit. Better explained with words from another language: Gratis, and Libre. Gratis, for no charge, and Libre, for freedom or libration. I think.

Anyhow, there’s a Wiki page on the subject, because obviously I’m not the only one who didn’t get the free-as-in-beer reference. Although it makes more sense when you contrast it with free-as-in-speech rather than just on its own.

Wikipedia: Gratis versus Libre