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<title>What is the GNU-Project?</title>
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<h1>What is the GNU project?</h1>
<div id="introduction">
<div class="image">
<img src="/graphics/heckert_gnu.small.png" alt="GNU head" />
</div>
<p>The <a href="http://www.gnu.org">GNU project</a> was launched in
September 1983 by Richard M. Stallman to create a complete operating
system which is <a href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">Free Software</a>.
Software development work started the following January. Today we have
several Free Software operating systems which respect the users' freedom
by giving everybody the right to use, study, share and improve the
software for any purpose.</p>
</div>
<p>
Stallman established the Free Software Foundation in October 1985 to
assist administrative, legal, and organisational aspects of the GNU
project and also to spread the use and knowledge of Free Software.
The main licences of the GNU project are the <a href="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html">GNU General Public
License (GPL)</a> and the <a href="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html">GNU Lesser General Public License</a> (LGPL,
originally called GNU Library General Public License). Over the years
they have become established as the most widely used licences for Free
Software.
</p>
<p>
The GNU project consists of numerous smaller sub-projects maintained
by volunteers or businesses or combinations of the two. These
sub-projects themselves are also called "GNU projects" or "GNU
packages."
</p>
<p>
The name of the GNU project is derived from the recursive acronym
"GNU's Not Unix." Unix was a very popular operating system in the
80s, so Stallman designed GNU to be mostly compatible with Unix so
that it would be convenient for people to migrate to GNU. The name
acknowledges that GNU learned from Unix's technical design, but also
importantly notes that they are unrelated. Unlike Unix, GNU is Free
Software.
</p>
<p>
Being Unix-like, GNU is modular in design. This means that third
party components can be inserted into GNU. Today, it is very common
for people to use a third party kernel called Linux with GNU systems.
Many people use the name "Linux" for this variant of GNU, but this
prevents people from hearing of the GNU project and its goal of
software freedom. FSFE asks people to use the term "GNU/Linux" or
"GNU+Linux" when refering to such systems.
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