GNU project

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The GNU logo

The GNU Project is developing the GNU (pronunciation: [ ɡnuː ]) operating system , founded by Richard Stallman with the aim of creating a free, Unix-like operating system that ensures that end users have the freedom to use, investigate, distribute (copy) and modify. Software whose license guarantees these freedoms is Free Software ( Engl. Free Software) called GNU is in this sense free .

The project gained notoriety above all through the GNU General Public License (GPL) it introduced, under which many other software projects are published, as well as numerous GNU programs such as the GNU Compiler Collection , the GNU Debugger and tools from the GNU Core Utilities , the Editor Emacs and others.

Since the kernel of the GNU project, GNU Hurd , is not yet suitable for practical use, GNU is now usually used with the Linux kernel . This combination is the GNU / Linux operating system , which is often referred to as Linux for short .



Richard Stallman (2015)

The origin of the GNU project goes back to Richard Stallman, who worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1971 to 1984 . In the early days of his work, he experienced the use of software as a lively and open exchange between developers and users. At that time it was common to swap programs, also in the form of the source code, and to adapt them if necessary. The situation changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s when companies began releasing software under highly restrictive licenses and keeping the source code secret. Stallman was then at a crossroads, either to adapt to the model of the proprietary software or to take a different path. He decided to develop a model of free software that should guarantee the openness of the software and the possibility of exchange. The first step on this path should be a free operating system like Unix . Since it was common at MIT to use recursive acronyms for programs that were similar to other programs , Stallman chose the name GNU for " G NU’s n ot U nix".

The decision to make GNU Unix compatible was based on several reasons. For one thing, Stallman was certain that most companies would reject a fundamentally new operating system if the programs they were using couldn't run on it. On the other hand, the Unix architecture enabled rapid, simple and distributed development, since Unix consists of many small programs, which for the most part can be developed independently of one another. Many parts of a Unix system were freely available to everyone and could thus be integrated directly into GNU, for example, the typesetting system TeX or window system X Window . The missing parts have been rewritten from scratch.

The GNU project was announced on September 27, 1983 in the net.unix-wizards and net.usoft newsgroups . Work on it began on January 5, 1984 , after Stallman quit his position at MIT in order to devote himself entirely to the GNU project while preventing MIT from having employment rights to the code he had written. A little later, Stallman explained his motives in the “GNU Manifesto” and in other essays. He saw one of the main purposes of the project as “reviving the spirit of cooperation that had prevailed in the computer community in the early years”. Thus, the GNU project - although largely of a technical nature - also represented a social and political initiative. Since its inception, it has not only produced software, but also its own licensing models and a large number of theoretical writings, mostly written by Stallman.

The GNU project is closely related to the development of Linux and GNU / Linux .


The software published by the GNU project was then placed under its own licenses, which granted the corresponding freedoms. For the principle of a license that explicitly incorporates the duty of openness, Stallman used the term copyleft , which Don Hopkins mentioned in a letter to him in the mid-1980s. Stallman later decided to create a uniform license under which all software could be published. With the help of Jerry Cohen , he therefore drafted the GNU General Public License , which essentially comprises four freedoms: to use the program for any purpose, to redistribute copies, to study and examine the way the program works, and to adapt the program to one's own needs and the adapted ones Distribute programs as well.

Free Software Foundation

To give the GNU project a logistical, legal, and financial framework, Stallman founded the non-profit Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985 . The FSF also employs programmers to work on GNU, although most of the work is done by volunteers. As GNU became known, companies began to work on it. They developed programs that they released under the GPL , began selling CDs of software and providing services related to the system. Cygnus Solutions was one of the best-known companies in the earlier part of the project . Many of these companies support the Free Software Foundation with money or other donations. These include, among others, IBM , Google Inc. and HP .

Free System Distribution Guidelines (FSDG)

The Guidelines for Free System Distribution (GNU FSDG) are intended to provide guidance for distribution systems on what it means to qualify as Free Software . The distribution should be complete and all information should be provided as source code and under a free license. Furthermore, the distribution should not contain any non-free firmware and the documentation should be under free license. A free GNU / Linux distribution is e.g. B. Trisquel and a free non-GNU system distribution is Replicant .

The logo of the GNU project is a drawing of a wildebeest , an African antelope. It was originally designed by Etienne Suvasa and has since been rendered in various modified forms.

See also

Portal: Free Software  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Free Software

Individual evidence

  1. Free Software Foundation: How to pronounce 'GNU' . Retrieved November 26, 2013 : "The name GNU is a recursive acronym of 'GNU's Not Unix' and is pronounced [ ˈgnuː ], with a hard g."
  2. ^ Richard Stallman: Free Unix! on Usenet, September 29, 1983
  3. Richard Stallman: The GNU Manifesto on, July 13, 2005
  4. Dominik Walcher: The ideas competition as a method of active customer integration: theory, empirical analysis and implications for the innovation process . 1st edition. Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-8350-0596-9 , pp. 34 (Dissertation Technical University of Munich, 2006).
  5. Corporate Patron Program on 12 October 2005 at
  6. Free GNU / Linux distributions. In: August 18, 2018, accessed September 22, 2018 .
  7. Free non-GNU distributions. In: December 3, 2016, accessed September 22, 2018 .
  8. Guidelines for free system distributions. In: September 12, 2018. Retrieved September 22, 2018 .
  9. ^ A GNU Head on, May 5, 2005

Web links