From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The GNU Project is a free software, mass
collaboration project, announced on September 27, 1983, by Richard
Stallman at MIT. It initiated the GNU operating system, software development
for which began in January 1984. The founding goal of the project
was, in the words of its initial announcement, to develop "a
sufficient body of free software [...] to get along without any
software that is not free."
To make this happen, the GNU Project began working on an
operating system called GNU. GNU is
acronym that stands for "GNU's Not Unix". This goal of making a
free software operating system was achieved in 1992 when the last
gap in the GNU system, a kernel,
was filled by a third-party Unix-style kernel called "Linux" being released as Free Software,
under a GNU GPL
Current work of the GNU Project includes software development,
awareness building, and political campaigning.
Philosophy and activism
Although most of the GNU Project's output is technical in
nature, it was launched as a social, ethical, and political
initiative. As well as producing software and licenses, the GNU
Project has published a large number of philosophical writings, the
majority of which were authored by Richard Stallman.
The first goal of the GNU project was to create a whole
free-software operating system. By 1992, the GNU project had
completed all of the major operating system components except for
their kernel, GNU Hurd.
The Linux kernel,
started independently by Linus Torvalds in 1991 filled the last
gap, and Linux version 0.12 was released under the GPL in 1992. Together, Linux
and GNU formed the first completely free-software operating system.
Though the Linux kernel is not part of the GNU project, it was
developed using GCC and other GNU programming
From the mid-1990s onward, with many companies investing in free
software development, the Free Software Foundation
redirected its funds toward the legal and political support of free
software development. Software development from that point on
focused on maintaining existing projects, and starting new projects
only when there was an acute threat to the free software community; see High Priority Free Software Projects. We
should not forget that one of the most notable projects of the GNU
Project is the GNU C compiler, which has been adopted as the
standard compiler on almost all UNIX and UNIX-like systems,
including Apple's iPhone and iPod.
One example is the GNOME
desktop. This development effort was launched by the GNU Project
because another desktop system, KDE,
was becoming popular but required users to install certain proprietary software. To prevent
people from being tempted to install that proprietary software, the
GNU Project simultaneously launched two projects. One was the Harmony toolkit. This was an attempt to
make a free software replacement for the proprietary software that
KDE depended on. Had this project been successful, the problem with
KDE would have been solved. The second project was GNOME, which
tackled the same issue from a different angle. It aimed to make a
replacement for KDE, one which didn't have any dependencies on
proprietary software. The Harmony project didn't make much
progress, but GNOME developed very well. Eventually, the
proprietary component that KDE depended on (Qt) was released as free software.
Another example is Gnash.
Gnash is software to play content distributed in the Adobe Flash format.
This has been marked as a priority project by GNU because it was
seen that many people were installing a free software operating
system and using a free software web-browser, but were then also
installing the proprietary software plug-in from Adobe.