To (most) people in IT, terms like "open source" and "free software" bring up a lot of associations. (For some those association differ wildly between these two terms.) Does the same go for the general audience of the products which these concepts can apply to? (Software, hardware, industrial machines, ...) And if so, what are those associations?

What I'm looking for is research that has been conducted to find out what commonly used terms to describe free or open products mean to end users, if anything at all.

  • 2
    I guess in IT, any software, available for free would be called Open Source. They usually don't distinguish between gratis and FOSS
    – Ranveer
    Jun 28, 2015 at 8:09

1 Answer 1


I'm not aware of any research where that has been the primary focus. In most of my reading; the meaning of "open source" is either quoted from a source like FSF or not referenced at all.

However, there has been a lot written about open source from perspectives other than software engineers. From Convivial software: an end-user perspective on free and open source software (C. Mitcham 2009):

As noted at the outset, from the end-user perspective what is important is not so much the direct availability of the source code as program or technical conviviality... From the perspective of end users, there is more with regard to free expression or openness than technical source code transparency.

Another article, One size doesn't fit all: End users look for perfect 'fit' with open source code (L. Spinelli, Accounting Today, 2005) focusses a lot on how "anyone can change" an open source project, making it highly customisable.

the problem with using a closed or proprietary system was its inability to bend to the company's inventory processes, creating a need for a third-party system.

In general, "open source" and "free software" tend to be used interchangeably, and there is more focus on the "free speech" aspect than the "free beer".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.