GNU Users Who Have Never Heard of GNU

by Richard Stallman

To learn more about this issue, you can also read our GNU/Linux FAQ, our page on Why GNU/Linux? and our page on Linux and the GNU Project.

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, 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 system.

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.

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