K5: 'Is Richard Stallman's Fight For "GNU/Linux" Suicide?'

Georg C. F. Greve greve at gnu.org
Thu May 17 07:42:30 UTC 2001

This is an interesting (albeit annoying) story on
kuro5hin. Fortunately a lot of the comments are smarter than the


Is Richard Stallman's Fight For "GNU/Linux" Suicide?

By Magnanimity
Tue May 15th, 2001 at 07:47:28 PM EST

Whether we think it is or not, the GPL is seen as a very anti-business
license. And, whether we think it does or not, the Linux community
needs businesses to support it. I feel, that in RMS's fight for
"GNU/Linux" (as opposed to "Linux") not only accentuates the
synonymity between the FSF and Linux (which I think is a bad thing in
the first place), but it also hinders commercial growth of a community
that needs it very much (See Slashdot's report on the fall of Eazel.)

Perhaps the name is not a simple matter of preference...?


Although the battle has died down quite a bit, the fight to name one
of the most prevalent operating systems "Linux" or "GNU/Linux" was
somewhat bitter. The founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard
Stallman, felt that it should be known as "GNU/Linux" due to its
dependence on GNU software, or at least software licensed under the
GNU General Public License.

Several people wondered and some organizations, such as Debian , even
adopted the policy. This movement seems totally harmless...to some
simply a nuisance...but I feel that moving to bring the bond between
GNU and Linux will only harm our community.

As stated in my introduction, the GPL is seen as anti-business,
whether we would like it to be that way or not. And, after the alleged
failure of Eazel, probably more corporations will view GPL software as
worthless and hardly profitable. What is wrong with this? In the
Windows world, there is a great abundance of closed, commercial
software, and a very small percentage of open, possibly GNU-based
software. The result? A economically stable community where businesses
can make software and consumers are expected to purchase it. In the
Linux community, however, there is an extreme abundance of open,
most-likely GNU-based software and a very small percentage of
commercial software. The result? A community where people are happy
because there are pieces of quality software with no charge tagged to
them, but business and great opportunities for future development are
hindered by the permanent association of Linux to GNU. Do I think the
Linux community should become more like the Windows community?
Absolutely not. But we must find a balance between commercial and
"free" software. In doing so, that balance will allow the community to

What's my solution? Eliminate GNU? Stop using Linux? Of course
not. There is nothing wrong with GNU software (under appropriate
situations) but allowing the Linux operating system to become
permanently and solely associated with the GPL (at least within the
eyes of Corporate America) and an alleged system of unprofitability
does nothing but harms the entire community. So, we should not simply
wait for society to understand that Linux does not always mean "GPL,"
but I believe we should push the ideal that Linux can exist with
diversity in software licensing: Some GPL, some BSD, some commercial
and closed, and some between the two extremes. There is nothing wrong
with modeation.

So, whether we adopt GNU as the foundation of Linux, in name,
licensing or any other aspect, we must remember that we should
encourage several types of entities to join the community, and create
a balanced and economically attractive operating system.

Georg C. F. Greve                                       <greve at gnu.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
Brave GNU World	                           (http://brave-gnu-world.org)
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