In my previous article on Linux Distros, I had an overview of what makes up a complete Linux System. In that article, the discovery was that there are four primary components, and the name GNU came up. From that, quite a number of people figured that Linux owned GNU, and GNU was somehow manufactured by Linux. This article is here to debunk that. Before getting lost in the word, let me get right into it.
Fun fact: GNU actually means; GNU’s Not Unix & it is another name for wildebeests.
In this article, what is discussed is the GNU Project, that is not to be confused with the GNU OS or a Wildebeest. Now you know that wildebeests are also called gnus.
The GNU project is a collection of free software that was first announced by Richard Stallman, a fellow at MIT, in September of 1978. The idea behind the project was to produce, and provide users with free software that they could use, modify, share and or copy without anyone bugging them. This was done under a license called the General Public License (GPL). Note that the production of the free software meant that people who had the relevant knowledge were able to customize and extend the functionalities of such software without risk of violating licenses, leading to a great and very fundamental revolution.
With a Linux System, the GNU project plays a fundamental role by providing utilities that are useful for day to day activities as well as primitive / standard functions that include controlling files and programs. When a fellow called Linus came up with the Linux System Kerne in September of 1991, he did not develop utilities to run on it.
With the simultaneous development of the GNU Project, producing utilities that mimicked the Unix system, he was able to incorporate these open source utilities to work with the Linux Kernel.
On the flip side, the GNU Project produced a huge amount of utilities but did not develop a Kernel system to run the utilities on. Being Open Source (OSS), allowed the integration of the Linux Kernel and the GNU utilities
The concept of OSS allows(ed) programmers to develop software and release it to the world without licensing fees attached. Linux Kernel and the GNU Project led to the creation of a complete OSS OS.
Bottom Point: Linux is the Kernel part, GNU is the utilities part of a Linux system.
To make sure that both the GNU Project and Linux Kernel are recognized when software is availed to the open world, sometimes both names are included with the GPL.
Now, the murky waters of the GNU/Linux world are clear.