GNU is the only operating system developed specifically to give its users freedom. What is GNU, and what freedom is at stake?

The University of Costumed Heroes: A video from the FSF

What is GNU?

GNU is an operating system that is free software—that is, it respects users' freedom. The GNU operating system consists of GNU packages (programs specifically released by the GNU Project) as well as free software released by third parties. The development of GNU made it possible to use a computer without software that would trample your freedom.

We recommend installable versions of GNU (more precisely, GNU/Linux distributions) which are entirely free software. More about GNU below.

 [Screenshot of Dragora 3.0-beta1 with IceWM window manager]  Dragora / IceWM
 [Screenshot of Guix 0.15 with GNOME 3 desktop]  Guix / GNOME3
 [Screenshot of Hyperbola 0.3 with i3 window manager]  Hyperbola / i3
 [Screenshot of Parabola 2020 with LXDE desktop]  Parabola / LXDE
 [Screenshot of PureOS 8 with GNOME 3 desktop]  PureOS / GNOME3
 [Screenshot of Trisquel 8 with MATE desktop]  Trisquel / MATE

What is the Free Software Movement?

The free software movement campaigns to win for the users of computing the freedom that comes from free software. Free software puts its users in control of their own computing. Nonfree software puts its users under the power of the software's developer. See the video explanation.

What is Free Software?

Free software means the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”.

More precisely, free software means users of a program have the four essential freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Developments in technology and network use have made these freedoms even more important now than they were in 1983.

Nowadays the free software movement goes far beyond developing the GNU system. See the Free Software Foundation's web site for more about what we do, and a list of ways you can help.

More about GNU

GNU is a Unix-like operating system. That means it is a collection of many programs: applications, libraries, developer tools, even games. The development of GNU, started in January 1984, is known as the GNU Project. Many of the programs in GNU are released under the auspices of the GNU Project; those we call GNU packages.

The name “GNU” is a recursive acronym for “GNU's Not Unix.” “GNU” is pronounced g'noo, as one syllable, like saying “grew” but replacing the r with n.

The program in a Unix-like system that allocates machine resources and talks to the hardware is called the “kernel”. GNU is typically used with a kernel called Linux. This combination is the GNU/Linux operating system. GNU/Linux is used by millions, though many call it “Linux” by mistake.

GNU's own kernel, The Hurd, was started in 1990 (before Linux was started). Volunteers continue developing the Hurd because it is an interesting technical project.

More information

The GNU Project supports the Free Software Foundation's petition to call on school administrators around the world to stop requiring students to run nonfree software. Sign the petition for freedom in the classroom.

The GNU Project strongly urges the community to communicate in ways that are friendly, welcoming and kind. See the GNU Kind Communications Guidelines.

Planet GNU RSS Feed

GNU Parallel 20200922 ('Ginsburg') released: GNU Parallel 20200922 ('Ginsburg') has been released. It is available for download at: http://ftpmirror.gnu.org/parallel/ Quote of...

Volunteers needed: Help maintain our webmail page: The Free Software Foundation (FSF) needs your help! We are looking for several reliable volunteers to keep our Free Software Webmail Systems...

GNU Taler launched at BFH: 2020-09: GNU Taler operational at Bern University of Applied Sciences The GNU Taler payment system was launched at the BFH in the presence of a representative of th...

Take Action

More action items

Can you contribute to any of these High Priority Areas?

  • Free phone operating system,
  • decentralization, federation and self-hosting,
  • free drivers, firmware and hardware designs,
  • real-time voice and video chat,
  • encourage contribution by people underrepresented in the community,
  • and more.

Can you help maintain a GNU package?

See the package web pages for more information.

Recent GNU releases

Short descriptions for all GNU packages

Today's random package…

logo for librejs Librejs

LibreJS is an add-on for GNU Icecat and other Firefox-based browsers. It detects non-trivial and non-free JavaScript code from being loaded without your consent when you browse the web. JavaScript code that is free or trivial is allowed to be loaded. (doc)

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 [FSF logo]  “The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom. We defend the rights of all software users.”

The FSF also has sister organizations in Europe, Latin America and India.
Feel free to join them!