Ubuntu Philosophy (Original)

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Notice icon.png This page is the original version of the Ubuntu project's Philosophy page that was online when Ubuntu launched in September 2004. Please do not edit or change it.



Our work on Ubuntu is driven by a philosophy on software freedom that we hope will spread and bring the benefits of software technology to all parts of the globe.

Free and open source software

Ubuntu is a community driven project to create an operating system and a full set of applications using free and open source software. At the core of the Ubuntu Philosophy of Software Freedom are these core philosophical ideals:

  1. Every computer user should have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licencing fees.
  2. Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.
  3. Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability.

Our philosophy is reflected in the software we produce and include in our distribution. As a result, the licensing terms of the software we distribute are measured against our philosophy, using the Ubuntu Software Licencing Guidelines. When you install Ubuntu almost all of the software installed already meets these ideals, and we are working to ensure that every single piece of software you need is available under a licence that gives you those freedoms. Currently, we make a specific exception for some "drivers" which are only available in binary form, without which many computers will not complete the Ubuntu installation. We place these in restricted section of your system which makes them trivial to remove if you do not need them.

Free software

For Ubuntu, the "free" in "free software" is used primarily in reference to freedom and not to price -- although we are committed to not charging for Ubuntu. The most important thing about Ubuntu is not that it is available free of charge, but that it confers rights of software freedom on the people who install and use it. It is those freedoms that enable the Ubuntu community to grow, sharing its collective experience and expertise to improve Ubuntu and make it suitable for use in new countries and new industries.

Quoting the Free Software Foundation's "What is Free Software", the freedoms at the core of free software are defined as:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that everyone benefits.

Free software has been a coherent social movement for more than two decades. This movement has produced millions of lines of code, documentation, and a vibrant community of which Ubuntu is proud to be a part.

Open source

Open source is a term coined in 1998 to remove the ambiguity in the English word "free". The Open Source Initiative described open source software in the Open Source Definition. Open source continues to enjoy growing success and wide recognition.

Ubuntu is happy to call itself open source. While some refer to free and open source as competing movements with different ends, we do not see free and open source software as either distinct or incompatible. Ubuntu proudly includes members who identify with both the free software and open source camps and many who identify with both.