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Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is distributed in a manner that allows its users to run the software for any purpose, to redistribute copies of it, and to examine, study, and modify, the source code. FOSS is also a loosely associated movement of multiple organizations, foundations, communities and individuals who share basic philosophical perspectives and collaborate practically, but might diverge in detail questions.

The historical precursor to this was the hobbyist and academic public domain software ecosystem of the 1960s to 1980s. The FOSS movement's "free" part originates from Richard Matthew Stallman, who noted the lost freedom to users on the decline of the public domain ecosystem and the growth of a copyrighted proprietary software ecosystem. In response, as a hack of the copyright system, he created the GPL, a protective copyleft license, aiming for the creation of a complete and free operating systemGNU. Shortly after, the BSDs (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD) brought an alternative FOSS approach to the table: the more public domain–like permissive licenses. Other noteworthy FOSS organizations from this time include the Apache Foundation (Apache Server), GNOME, Debian, Mozilla Foundation (Firefox), with their own ideas: The Free Software Definition, Debian Free Software Guidelines, The Open Source Definition, and more. At the end of the 1990s, in the context of the dot-com bubble and web 2.0, the Open-Source movement (with Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Tim O'Reilly and others) gave important impulses to FOSS with the achieved open sourcing of Netscape's browser as Firefox and Sun Microsystems' office suite, The incorporation of Linus Torvalds' Linux kernel in FOSS OS paved the way to broad mainstream recognition and acceptance of FOSS in the IT domain and among the general public. In the 2010s GitHub's openness and collaboration encouraging software repository cloud service brought FOSS software development & maintenance methodologies to mainstream software development.

The FOSS movement inspired the creation of other movements, such as open access, open hardware, open content, free culture, open standards, and many more.


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Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written entirely by volunteers. If you wish to contribute to our articles on free software, note that WikiProject Free Software lists the following articles as in need of attention and improvement:

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