The name “GNU” is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix”; it is pronounced g-noo, as one syllable with no vowel sound between the g and the n.
The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which is free software: the GNU system.
GNU’s kernel wasn’t finished, so GNU is used with the kernel Linux. The combination of GNU and Linux is the GNU/Linux operating system, now used by millions. (Sometimes this combination is incorrectly called Linux.)
What is Free Software?
To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”.
Free software concerns with the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.