Key Organizations in Free & Open-Source Software – The Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation (often abbreviated for “FSF”) is a non-profit corporation, based in Boston, Massachusetts, that was originally founded by Richard Stallman in 1985.

The goal of the Free Software Foundation is to support the development of free software (by which the Free Software Foundation means “free” as in “freedom”). In the early days, the Free Software Foundation was largely focused on the development of the GNU Project (which aimed to build a substantial body of free software, including a free operating system), but in more recent years, the organization, although still pushing forward the GNU Project, has also begun to provide a much broader range of support to free software developers, including campaigns, legal education, legal enforcement of free software projects’ copyrights (for those projects for which the FSF holds the copyright), issuing of awards, hosting of development projects, and more.

For many people, the Free Software Foundation is most familiar for the software licenses and other licenses that it has developed. These include the GPL version 2, the GPL version 3, the LGPL, and the GFDL (the “GNU Free Documentation License”). These licenses are used by both the FSF itself for its own projects, and are also available to be used by (and are in fact used by) others – for example, the Linux kernel is released under the GPL version 2, and OpenOffice is released under the LGPL.

The Free Software Foundation has also established a number of sister organizations around the world: the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) in Germany, the Free Software Foundation of India in Thiruvananthapuram, India, and Free Software Foundation Latin America in Argentina.