GNU Project

The GNU Project ( pronunciation: [ ɡnu ː ] ) was founded by Richard Stallman with the goal of creating an open, Unix-like operating system, which ensures that end users have the freedom to use it to investigate, distribute (copy) and change to allowed. Software, which guarantees this freedom rights (over their license), free software ( Free Software ) is called; and GNU ( " GNU's Not Unix" ) thus excluded. Became known for the project especially by the introduction of his GNU General Public License ( GPL), many well-known software projects are published under the, as well as many GNU programs, such as the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU debugger, and tools of the GNU coreutils, the the Emacs editor, etc.



The emergence of the GNU project goes back to Richard Stallman, who worked from 1971 to 1984 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the early days of his work, he learned how to deal with software as a lively and open exchange between developers and users. At that time it was customary to exchange programs in the form of source code, and adjust as needed. The situation changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as a company, started to publish software under highly restrictive licenses and to keep the source code secret. Stallman then stood at a crossroads, either adapt the model of proprietary software or to go another way. He chose for himself, to develop a model of free software, which should ensure the openness of the software and the possibility of swapping. The first step should be a free operating system such as Unix. As it was in the time at MIT common for programs similar to other programs to use recursive acronyms, Stallman chose GNU, which stands for " GNU's not Unix". The project around the system called GNU Project.

The decision to make GNU Unix - compatible, had several reasons. On the one hand, Stallman was convinced that most companies would refuse a completely new operating system if the programs they used, would not run on it. On the other hand, allowed the architecture of Unix fast, simple and distributed development, since Unix consists of many small programs that can be developed independently for the most part. Also, many parts of a Unix system were freely available to anyone and could be integrated directly into GNU, for example, the typesetting system TeX or the X Window System. The missing parts were written from scratch.

The GNU project was commissioned on 27 September 1983 in the newsgroups net.unix - wizards and net.usoft known. Work on the project began on January 5, 1984, when Stallman quit his job at MIT. He did this in order to devote himself to the GNU Project and can in order to prevent that the MIT as an employer owns the rights to the code written by him. Stallman explained a little later in the "GNU Manifesto" and other essays in his motives. A primary purpose of the project was "in the spirit of cooperation that had prevailed in the early years of the computer community resuscitate ". This is the GNU project, although most of the results of a more technical nature, a social and political initiative. The GNU Project since its inception has not only brought about software, but also own licenses and a large number of theoretical writings, most of which were written by Stallman.

The GNU project is closely linked with the development of Linux and GNU / Linux.


Published by the GNU project software was then placed under their own licenses, which granted the corresponding freedoms. For the principle of a license, which explicitly incorporates the obligation to openness, Stallman used the term copyleft, Don Hopkins mid-1980s against him mentioned in a letter. Later, Stallman decided to create a unified license under which all software could be published. He designed, therefore, with the help of Jerry Cohen, the GNU General Public License, which essentially comprises four freedoms: to run the program for any purpose, redistribute copies to study how the program works and adapt the program to your own needs.

Free Software Foundation

In order to provide a logistical, legal and financial framework of the GNU Project, Stallman founded in 1985 the non-profit Free Software Foundation ( FSF). The FSF also employs programmers to work on GNU, although the major part of the work is done by volunteers. As a GNU was known, companies began contributing to it. They developed programs that they released under the GPL, CDs with software began to sell and deliver services around the system. One of the best known companies in the earlier period of the project was Cygnus Solutions. Many of these companies support the Free Software Foundation with money or other donations. These include IBM, Google Inc. and HP.


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 played in various modified forms.


Official spokesman of the GNU Project are (as of April 2011):

  • Robert J. Chassell
  • Loïc Dachary
  • Nagarjuna G.
  • Ricardo Galli
  • Joshua Gay
  • Georg Christof Florian Greve
  • Dr. Peter Heath
  • Federico Heinz
  • Kefah T. Issa
  • Benjamin Mako Hill
  • Bradley M. Kuhn
  • Matt Lee
  • Eben Moglen
  • Alexandre Oliva
  • Brett Smith
  • Richard Matthew Stallman
  • John Sullivan