There is a lot of jargon around open-source. These are my definitions not the most precise ones. This list is not exhaustive and I will add to it as I use the words in my blogging.


Creative-Commons: a copyright tool which retains ownership but releases the content for public use. There are various restrictions but all allow sharing. This glossary is an example. Feel free to share it according to this license.

EXIF: this is where information about a picture stored inside the file, including copyright.

FTP: “File Transfer Protocol” a system for transferring files around the Internet. (Uses the preface “ftp://” instead of the much better known “http://”)

Freeware: free software. It may be open source or proprietary. Firefox and Internet Explorer are examples.

GPL: “General Public License” is software which is free and open-source. Is is also sometimes called GNU after the group that wrote the license. The photo editing program GIMP is an example.

Open Ethos: Programs or services that are comercial/proprietary but still have an open ethic similar to Open-Source programs. Google Docs and IrfanView are examples.

Open-hardware: my term for hardware that can be easily modified (“hacked”). Old PCs for example.

Open-source: the user can examine the inside of a tool. (not to be confused with free). LibreOffice and most web pages are examples.

Open-tools: my term for software (usually) that can be freely taken, shared and modified. LibreOffice and Linux are examples.

Open-content: my term for information that can be freely taken, shared and adapted. Shakespeare, Wikipedia and CreativeCommons licensed photos are examples.

Proprietary: software that is exclusively owned. Can be paid or free. Windows and iTunes are examples.

Public Domain: items that are owned by the general population, often because of old age. Shakespeare and the recipe for a peanut butter sandwich are examples.

In common usage:

Open source: free

Proprietary: paid

Although technically wrong, lots of people use it this way. Even me.


Note: When I say “my term” I mean a word that I use but others may not. I didn’t coin the term.

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