Free GNU/Linux system distributions (or “distros”) only include and only propose free software. They reject non-free applications, non-free programming platforms, non-free drivers, non-free firmware “blobs”, and any other non-free software and documentation. If they discover that by mistake some had been included, they remove it.
Free GNU/Linux Distros
We recommend that you use a free GNU/Linux system distribution, one that does
not include proprietary software at all. That way you can be sure that you are
not installing any non-free programs. Here is our list of such distros:
Free GNU/Linux distributions.
All of these existing distros could use more development help. Thus, if you want to make an effective contribution to free GNU/Linux distributions, we suggest that you join the development of an existing free distro rather that starting a new free distro.
Free Non-GNU Distros
These system distributions are free but quite different from GNU.
Using them is not similar to using GNU/Linux. However, they satisfy
the same ethical criteria that we apply to GNU/Linux distros.
Free Non-GNU distributions.
All of these existing distros could use more development help. Thus, if you want to make an effective contribution in this area, we suggest that you join the development of an existing free distro rather that starting a new free distro.
Free Distro Guidelines
Here is the list of problems that can prevent a distro from being
considered entirely free:
Guidelines for free system distributions.
Many common and well-known GNU/Linux software distributions don't meet
our guidelines. You can read about their problems here:
Why we can't endorse many well-known GNU/Linux distros.
We appeal to the developers of these distros to remove the non-free parts and thus make them entirely free software.
Optionally Free Is Not Enough
Some GNU/Linux distributions allow the user the option of installing only free software. You can read:
Why optionally free is not enough.
Why Is This Important?
When a GNU/Linux distro includes nonfree software, it causes two kinds of problems:
- If you install it, you may install and use nonfree software.
- It gives people the wrong idea of what the goal is.
The first problem is a direct problem: it affects users of the distro, if they install the nonfree software. However, the second problem is the more important one, because it affects the community as a whole.
The developers of nonfree distros don't say, “We apologize for the presence of nonfree components in our distribution. We don't know what possessed us to include them. We hope that next release we will keep our minds on freedom.” If they did, they would have less of a bad influence.
Instead, they generally present the nonfree software in their systems as a positive feature; they say that their goal is “the best possible user experience”, or something like that, rather than freedom. In other words, they lead people to place convenience above freedom — working directly against our campaign to make freedom the primary goal.
The fact that these distros don't deliver freedom is why we don't endorse them. That they teach people not to value freedom is why we are strongly concerned about this issue.