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Recursive Acronym: GNU’s Not Unix

The goal of the GNU Project is to create a complete, Free operating system. “GNU” stands for “GNU’s Not Unix!”

Most components which have been written by the GNU Project itself are under the GPL, but many other pieces are available under BSD Style Licenses or are part of the Public Domain. The GNU Project is part of the Free Software Foundation.

From the home page:

“The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which is free software: the GNU system. (GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix; it is pronounced “guh-NEW”.) Variants of the GNU operating system, which use the kernel Linux, are now widely used; though these systems are often referred to as “Linux“, they are more accurately called GNU/Linux systems.”

The GNU project is driven more by ideological values and ethical considerations than anything else. This is a contrast to the Open Source movement (which only appeared in 1998) — which instead focuses mainly on the technical aspects of the free/open model. One stereotype is that, with Richard Stallman at the lead, GNU activists are often thought to be fanatics as they seldom step back and let freedom take a second place to practicality. For this reason some people like to call us GNUzis.

Today the GNU project is not as widely known as it deserves to be. Some people found a term called open source which is more attractive for people with commercial interest and therefore now many people think that Richard Stallman and the GNU project work for and are “open source”. This is not the case, and will never be the case because both movements have different interests and ideals.

GNU software

An incomplete list of GNU software


  • Unofficial GNU Forum hosted by Nabble. This forum archives many GNU projects’ mailing lists into a forum for easy browsing and unified search. It has a fairly complete list of GNU projects. You can drill into each project to browse, or search the postings by keyword and see what the GNU people are talking about.

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