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/nu/[3][4] is an extensive collection of computer software that can be used to build a Unix-

like operating system. GNU is composed wholly of free software.[5][6][7]

GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix!",[5][8] chosen because GNU's design is Unix-like,
but differs from Unix by being free software and containing no Unix code.[5][9][10] and was the original
focus of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).[5][11][12][13]However, non-GNU kernels, most famously
the Linux kernel, can also be used with GNU software.[14][15] The combination of GNU software and
the Linux kernel is commonly known as Linux (or less frequently GNU/Linux; see GNU/Linux naming
GNU is still missing some components to make it a full operating system that a person can readily
install and use on a computer. In practice, most usable GNU-based operating systems are Linux
distributions. They contain the Linux kernel, GNU components and software from many other free
software projects.
Development of the GNU operating system was initiated by Richard Stallman at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as a project called the GNU
Project which was publicly announced on September 27, 1983, on the net.unix-wizards and
net.usoft newsgroups by Richard Stallman.[17][18] Software development began on January 5, 1984,
when Stallman quit his job at the Lab so that they could not claim ownership or interfere with
distributing GNU components as free software.[19] Richard Stallman chose the name by using various
plays on words, including the song The Gnu.[4](00:45:30)
The goal was to bring a wholly free software operating system into existence. Stallman wanted
computer users to be "free", as most were in the 1960s and 1970s free to study the source code of
the software they use, free to share the software with other people, free to modify the behavior of the
software, and free to publish their modified versions of the software. This philosophy was later
published as the GNU Manifesto in March 1985.[18]
Richard Stallman's experience with the Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS),[19] an early operating
system written in assembly language that became obsolete due to discontinuation of PDP-10, the
computer architecture for which ITS was written, led to a decision that a portable system was
necessary.[4](00:40:52)[20] It was thus decided that the development would be started using C andLisp as
system programming languages,[21] and that GNU would be compatible with Unix.[22] At the time, Unix
was already a popularproprietary operating system. The design of Unix was modular, so it could be
reimplemented piece by piece.[20]
Much of the needed software had to be written from scratch, but existing compatible third-party free
software components were also used such as the TeX typesetting system, the X Window System,

and the Mach microkernel that forms the basis of the GNU Machcore of GNU Hurd (the official

kernel of GNU).[23] With the exception of the aforementioned third-party components, most of GNU
has been written by volunteers; some in their spare time, some paid by companies, [24] educational
institutions, and other non-profit organizations. In October 1985, Stallman set up the Free Software
Foundation (FSF). In the late 1980s and 1990s, the FSF hired software developers to write the
software needed for GNU.[25][26]
As GNU gained prominence, interested businesses began contributing to development or selling
GNU software and technical support. The most prominent and successful of these was Cygnus
Solutions,[24] now part of Red Hat.[27]

Main article: List of GNU packages
The system's basic components include the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), the GNU C
library (glibc), and GNU Core Utilities(coreutils),[5] but also the GNU Debugger (GDB), GNU Binary
Utilities (binutils),[28] the GNU Bash shell[23][29] and the GNOME desktop environment.[30] GNU
developers have contributed to Linux ports of GNU applications and utilities, which are now also
widely used on other operating systems such as BSD variants, Solaris and Mac OS X.[31]
Many GNU programs have been ported to other operating systems, including proprietary platforms
such as Microsoft Windows[32] and Mac OS X.[33] GNU programs have been shown to be more reliable
than their proprietary Unix counterparts.[34]
As of August 2014, there are a total of 452 GNU packages (including decommissioned, 373
excluding) hosted on the official GNU development site.[35]

gNewSense, an example of an FSF approved distribution

Parabola, an example of an FSF approved distribution that uses a rolling release model

Trisquel GNU/Linux, FSF endorsed Linux distribution (GNU screenshot)

GNU variants[edit]
Main article: GNU variants
The official kernel of GNU Project was the GNU Hurd microkernel; however, as of
2012, Linux became officially part of the GNU Project in the form of Linux-libre, a variant of Linux
with all proprietary components removed.[36]
Other kernels like the FreeBSD kernel also work together with GNU software to form a working
operating system.[37] The FSF maintains that Linux, when used with GNU tools and utilities, should be
considered a variant of GNU, and promotes the term GNU/Linux for such systems (leading to
the GNU/Linux naming controversy).[38][39][40] The GNU Project has endorsed variants using Linux, such
asgNewSense, Trisquel and Parabola GNU/Linux-libre.[41] Other GNU variants which do not use the
Hurd as a kernel include Debian GNU/kFreeBSD and Debian GNU/NetBSD, bringing to fruition the
early plan of GNU on a BSD kernel.

Copyright, GNU licenses, and stewardship[edit]

The GNU Project recommends that contributors assign the copyright for GNU packages to the Free
Software Foundation,[42][43] though the Free Software Foundation considers it acceptable to release
small changes to an existing project to the public domain.[44] However, this is not required; package
maintainers may retain copyright to the GNU packages they maintain, though since only the
copyright holder may enforce the license used (such as the GNU GPL), the copyright holder in this
case enforces it rather than the Free Software Foundation. [45]
For the development of needed software, Stallman wrote a license called the GNU General Public
License (first called Emacs General Public License), with the goal to guarantee users freedom to
share and change free software.[46] Stallman wrote this license after his experience with James
Gosling and a program called UniPress, over a controversy around software code use in the GNU
Emacs program.[47][48] For most of the 80s, each GNU package had its own license: the Emacs
General Public License, the GCC General Public License, etc. In 1989, FSF published a single
license they could use for all their software, and which could be used by non-GNU projects: the GNU
General Public License (GPL).[47][49]

This license is now used by most of GNU software, as well as a large number of free software
programs that are not part of the GNU Project; it is also the most commonly used free software
license.[50] It gives all recipients of a program the right to run, copy, modify and distribute it, while
forbidding them from imposing further restrictions on any copies they distribute. This idea is often
referred to ascopyleft.[51]
In 1991, the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), then known as the Library General Public
License, was written for the GNU C Library to allow it to be linked with proprietary software. [52] 1991
also saw the release of version 2 of the GNU GPL. The GNU Free Documentation License (FDL), for
documentation, followed in 2000.[53] The GPL and LGPL were revised to version 3 in 2007, adding
clauses to protect users against hardware restrictions that prevent user to run modified software on
their own devices.[54]
Besides GNU's own packages, the GNU Project's licenses are used by many unrelated projects,
such as the Linux kernel, often used with GNU software. A minority of the software used by most of
Linux distributions, such as the X Window System, is licensed under permissive free software


GNU 30th Anniversary Logo

The logo for GNU is a gnu head. Originally drawn by Etienne Suvasa, a bolder and simpler version
designed by Aurelio Heckert is now preferred.[55][56] It appears in GNU software and in printed and
electronic documentation for the GNU Project, and is also used in Free Software Foundation
The image shown here is a modified version of the official logo. It was created by the Free Software
Foundation in September 2013 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the GNU Project.[57]