GNU Users Who Have Never Heard of GNU
by Richard Stallman
Most people have never heard of GNU. Even most of the people who use
the GNU system have never heard of GNU, thanks to so many people and
companies who teach them to call it “Linux”. Nonetheless,
the name GNU has certain associations, which people will discover once
they hear the name. GNU is associated with the ideals of freedom of the
free software movement. That association is no accident; the motive for
developing GNU was specifically to make it possible to use a computer
and have freedom.
The association between the name GNU and our goals of freedom and
social solidarity exists in the minds of hundreds of thousands of
GNU/Linux users that do know about GNU. It exists in Wikipedia. And it
exists around the web; if these users search for GNU, they will find www.gnu.org, which talks about free
software and freedom.
A person seeing the name “GNU” for the first time in
“GNU/Linux” won't immediately associate it with anything.
However, when people know that the system is basically GNU, that brings
them a step closer to learning about our ideals. For instance, they
might become curious and look for more information about GNU.
If they don't look for it, they may encounter it anyway. The
“open source” rhetoric tends to lead people's attention away
from issues of users' freedom, but not totally; there is still
discussion of GNU and free software, and people have some chance of
coming across it. When that happens, the reader is more likely to pay
attention to information about GNU (such as that it's the work of a
campaign for freedom and community) if he knows he is a user of the GNU
Over time, calling the system “GNU/Linux” spreads
awareness of the ideals of freedom for which we developed the GNU
system. It is also useful as a reminder for people in our community who
know about these ideals, in a world where much of discussion of free
software takes a totally practical (and thus amoral) approach. When we
ask you to call the system “GNU/Linux”, we do so because
awareness of GNU slowly but surely brings with it awareness of the free
software ideals of freedom and community.