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SubjectRe: Article: IBM wants to "clean up the license" of Linux

> Sender:
> From: Richard Stallman <>
> Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 18:17:02 -0700 (MST)
> To:
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: Article: IBM wants to "clean up the license" of Linux
> -----
> Please show a
> bit more respect for Linus and all the other people and their efforts...:
> call the linux kernel "Linux" as Linus wanted to call it
> I always call the kernel Linux, for precisely that reason. Linus
> Torvalds started that program, and he says the name is Linux, so I
> call it Linux out of respect for him.
> I ask people to do the same thing for the operating system as a whole.
> It was started in 1984 by the GNU Project. For years, before Linux
> was written, we developed many components (not just "tools") of this
> system, and we did so as steps in the development of the system as a
> whole. (See the GNU Manifesto.)
> Linux (the kernel) doesn't come from the GNU project, and we never try
> to claim any credit for it. When people say that the GNU project
> "developed important parts of Linux", we explain that we don't deserve
> that honor, because none of Linux is our work. And we never call
> Linux a GNU program. (Some people have misinterpreted this as a
> gesture of rejection of Linux; actually, it is because we're not
> entitled to say so.)
> But while the GNU project played no role in the writing of Linux, it
> started the development of the operating system as a whole. That's
> what the GNU project was and is about. Writing dozens of programs
> such as GCC, Bash and libc--not only "tools"--was just a part this
> larger project.
> The system version most of us are using is the combination of Linux
> and the GNU system. "GNU/Linux" is a good way to describe that
> combination, and when I write that, it always means the whole
> combination. The kernel is simply Linux.

One might as well also say that the whole system should be called
"GNU/X/Linux"; the X Window system contribution, in terms of number of
lines of code of software, is very large. People should remember that
not only "hackers" contributed, but a number of major companies, including
my own, contributed large amounts to that code base, under fully free
terms (where the UNIX vendors went wrong was stuff built on top, and the
silly GUI wars of the beginning of the decade). In terms of total effort
and number of lines of code, both GNU and X represent much larger efforts
than the base operating system.

But the reality is that this is too cumbersome, whether you say "GNU/Linux"
or "GNU/X/Linux. The market and men on the street now associates "Linux"
with the whole combination, for better or for worse. I'm personally very
gratified that our (in this case, the X Window system community, GNU
community, and Linux community) are affecting a large and growing number
of people, rather than withering and dying from the effects of Redmond.

So long as Linus gives credit where credit is due to the various groups
that make up this community, there is little to be gained (and arguably,
much to be lost) by confusing people with a more complex nomencature.

Obviously, when writing for a technical audience, (rather than the mass
audience), being more clear what you mean may make sense and give credit
where credit is due. But lets not confuse the mass market, which
has enough trouble understanding Linux as it is.
- Jim Gettys

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