Is it "for zero price" (gratis) or is it "with little or no restriction" (libre)?

In other words is it free as in "free beer", or is it free as in "freedom"? Or both?

I need it for a translation of Stack Overflow to another language.

  • 5
    See here: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0
    – JonW
    Mar 8 '15 at 18:06
  • @JonW: could you elaborate? I understand that the license is used for user contributions on the network. Does it mean that I should translate it as "a network of open, community-driven Q&A sites”?" (where "open" as in "open source").
    – jfs
    Mar 8 '15 at 18:21
  • 7
    Do you remember paying money for any access in all these years? Have you not ever seen users whine that they're being oppressed because they think SE is a government that should allow them "free" speech?
    – random
    Mar 8 '15 at 18:47
  • for the first one: no, the latter one? yes... Mar 8 '15 at 19:16
  • @glorfindel I think that translation and perhaps to non-english-speakers should be used here as the OP didn't mentioned that the translation will be applied "to adapt Stack Exchange to the needs of users...".
    – Rubén
    Sep 19 '18 at 16:23
  • @Rubén I'm trying to get rid of [translations] since it's ambiguous; it's now used mainly for content (but we have [languages] for that) and the Stack Exchange software (a.k.a. [localization]).
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 19 '18 at 16:24

Part of the design of Stack Overflow (our very first site) was to become the nemesis of a competing, somewhat hyphenated site that did some annoying things:

  • Ensured that if you typed a programming question into Google, you'd find them (well, that's not very annoying, unless ..)
  • They showed you the question if you clicked on a search result, but you had to pay in order to get the answer.

We did two things in response to this that continue to matter:

  • Our sites are gratis, 100% - you will never have to pay to use them. In most cases, you don't even need to tell us a single thing about you in order to participate and use them. We do require registration on a few sites in order to be able to ask questions due mainly to patterns of abuse and user confusion.

  • Every question and answer on our site falls under a CC-BY-SA license. Not only is gratis access to the site a feature, but the content is also free (as in you have the same freedoms with it as we do when it comes to using it) provided that you provide attribution for its use.

We won. While both terms apply, free as in "you have the same freedoms we have with this stuff" most applies. That pretty much implies gratis with the focus on as few restrictions as possible, but go with your own instincts as the only thing worse than my Russian is my Russian.

  • 1
    It is logically impossible for your Russian to be worse than your Russian. Also, I don't really see how that last bit relates to the rest of the post.
    – user259867
    Mar 8 '15 at 20:38
  • 5
    @Woodface (1) That was an attempt at humor that didn't resonate well with you, I'm sorry. (2) he was asking for support (as in what to do, see the tags on his question) and given that I answered "yes and yes", I wanted to (again) indicate that I'm not overly familiar with restrictions that the language might present, and trust his judgement.
    – Tim Post
    Mar 8 '15 at 20:42
  • 3
    There is actually an old convoluted joke which involves the speaker's Russian (language) and his Russian (servant) - by its example, logic does allow Tim's final sentence to make sense.
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 9 '15 at 9:01
  • At the moment "gratis" translation is used. I think it is implied unless said otherwise for internet resources in Russia i.e., if it is the main meaning then the word could be dropped completely ("community-driven" covers the second part). I've made the suggestion.
    – jfs
    Mar 9 '15 at 14:24
  • (Side note: Following the linked attribution guideline is not enough.)
    – unor
    Apr 3 '15 at 15:28

Non official reply, just my own personal interpretation until/if such reply is given

It means free of any cost, you don't need to pay money for anything and there's no "Gold/Premium membership" like many other sites that unlocks all the good stuff.

Everyone gets an equal starting point, and money can't affect it.


In my experience, Stack Exchange does not offer 100% freedom for several reasons

  • Moderation (both community and diamond) can be very aggressive, depending on the site.
  • Topics are very highly regulated for each site. You can't just ask anything, even if it is barely related to the topic of the site.
  • Stack Exchange does regulate who can ask questions on some sites by rate limiting or imposing a question ban on users who ask low quality questions.
  • The software the powers the network is not open (although the are some parts that have been open-sourced).

Given all of this, the only conclusion one can make is "free" means free of cost (gratis).

  • 3
    I don't get those down votes...
    – nicael
    Mar 8 '15 at 20:07
  • 1
    Freedom in the context of this question applies to one of two things. (1) if there's a charge for using the site, and (2) if you're free to use things you find on the site, and if so, under what restrictions. What you can or can't post due to community moderation isn't relevant to that. He's translating things that tell users what they can do with stuff they find on the site, and if they have to pay to use it.
    – Tim Post
    Mar 8 '15 at 20:47
  • 4
    It was asked for apples and your answer is talking about pears. In short: you miss the point. Mar 8 '15 at 20:49
  • 1
    Given all of this, the only conclusion one can make is "free" means free of cost (gratis). - yet you can post anything from Stack Overflow on your own blog, as long as you provide attribution (this is what he's getting at)
    – Tim Post
    Mar 8 '15 at 20:50
  • 1
    @TimPost there is absolutely nothing in the question that indicates that. The OP simply says "what does freex mean in this statement". If there is specific context that is hidden in the question, then it should be clarified. Mar 8 '15 at 21:06

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