that old GNU/Linux argument

Gordon Messmer yinyang at
Sun Jul 20 20:30:58 UTC 2008

Thomas Cameron wrote:
> I've never denigrated or minimized GNU's participation in the success of
> the Linux operating system, or any other operating systems.  No doubt,
> the GNU bits are of critical import.  But that's not why I commented on
> this thread.
> My point is that GNU is only a *part* of that success.

Or Linux is only a *part* of the success of GNU as an operating system.

Bear in mind that GNU was a "big and professional" Free Software 
operating system before Linus even began work on what would become the 
Linux kernel.

> There are other
> projects which have been as or more important in that success.  Look at
> Apache and Sendmail and BIND.  By your logic, it could very well be
> argued that it should be called Sendmail/Linux or Apache/Linux or
> BIND/Linux, as using Linux servers for mail and web DNS services was the
> bread and butter for Linux for a lot of years.

If you sold a black box that ran Sendmail on a GNU operating system, and 
called it "The Sendmail box", I wouldn't tell you that your name was 
wrong.  However, if I asked you what the *operating system* in your 
black box was, I'd expect you to say that it was GNU.  Sendmail isn't 
running on top of Linux; it's running on a GNU operating system with 
Linux as its kernel.

> Those are the services
> which got Linux in the back door in the enterprise.  I'm the first one
> to admit that without the GNU c compiler and c libraries, those would
> not have been as easily done, but *all* of them came together for the
> success of what the vast majority of the community and the industry
> calls "Linux."

It was certainly beneficial that GNU could run applications written for 
POSIX systems, but that doesn't make them part of the operating system. 
  I don't think that anyone is trying to make any argument other than: 
the operating system was GNU before it used the Linux kernel, and 
remained so when that one component was used.  Whatever name we use to 
refer to a software distribution aside, the name of the operating system 
that they include is GNU.  Calling it GNU/Linux isn't even so much about 
attribution of credit to Linux as it is a clarification that the primary 
GNU kernel is not included.

More information about the fedora-list mailing list