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12.2 GNU and Linux

The GNU Project was formed to develop a free Unix-like operating system, GNU. The existence of this system is our major accomplishment. However, the widely used version of the GNU system, in which Linux is used as the kernel, is often called simply "Linux". As a result, most users don't know about the GNU Project's major accomplishment--or more precisely, they know about it, but don't realize it is the GNU Project's accomplishment and reason for existence. Even people who believe they know the real history often believe that the goal of GNU was to develop "tools" or "utilities."

To correct this confusion, we have made a years-long effort to distinguish between Linux, the kernel that Linus Torvalds wrote, and GNU/Linux, the operating system that is the combination of GNU and Linux. The resulting increased awareness of what the GNU Project has already done helps every activity of the GNU Project recruit more support and contributors.

Please make this distinction consistently in GNU software releases, GNU documentation, and announcements and articles that you publish in your role as the maintainer of a GNU package. If you want to explain the terminology and its reasons, you can refer to the URL http://www.gnu.org/gnu/linux-and-gnu.html.

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