Shouldn't we call this the Gnu stack exchange and not call it the linux or unix stack exchange? We aren't here to ask questions or talk about the kernel, we are here talking about the gigantic suite of free programs designed to allow people to use computers, and interact with computers with ethical applications, that aren't inherently deceptive.

It should be seen as the ultimate irony that Linux is the common name, but for something completely different, GNU, which is the basis of "linux" computing in reality, whereas the kernel is really small in comparison. It's more like a suite of drivers that your real, gnu based software utilizes in order to provide us with a complete operating system.

It might seem trivial of course, it's the commonly used term to call it Linux, and they both work together regardless along similar lines to achieve a similar goal, but I think it's more important to use language that is in the first place, honest, and directly related to the significant information in the first place.

I've been starting to study computer science more frequently, and have found throughout the programmatic world, a kind of systematic misappropriation of language to describe all sorts of concepts, which then makes it much more difficult to understand more complex subject matter.

I think that fundamentally the ethics of this operating system we all use, are absolutely a part of its programming, and that that is extremely important to emphasize.

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    Does this answer your question? But Linux is a Kernel! Jun 26, 2022 at 12:53
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    This site is for questions about any aspect of using or administrating Unix and Unix-like systems. We welcome questions about installing Linux kernel drivers, about NetBSD package installation issues, and about peculiarities in commercial Unix systems such as AIX, Solaris and macOS. We also consider the odd GNU tool question on account of these being popular, even though these arguably "are not Unix".
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Jun 26, 2022 at 12:54

3 Answers 3


The first misunderstanding you seem to have here is that this is a site about GNU/Linux. It isn't, it is a site about any *nix operating system, including but certainly not limited to GNU/Linux. We have many questions here about the BSDs, AIX, Solaris, MacOS, and various others which have nothing to do with the GNU ecosystem. So renaming us to "GNU Stack Exchange" would be a huge reduction and limitation of the site's scope.

Even within the narrow scope of Linux, we absolutely do support questions about the kernel itself so again, we wouldn't want to limit the site to only GNU-related questions.

Finally, for the larger Linux vs GNU/Linux debate, I am afraid this has largely been resolved. The vast, vast majority of people who use GNU/Linux refer to it as Linux, and the term "Linux" has come to mean both "the Linux kernel" and "the operating system built using the GNU tools and the Linux kernel". While there are still some who object to this, most of the Linux world considers the issue closed. We all know the FSF's position on the name, and they aren't wrong, but the simple fact is that "GNU/Linux" is a mouthful and cumbersome and just isn't what actual people who use the system call it.

So, to summarize, the reasons we aren't called "GNU/Linux Stack Exchange" are:

  • we are about much more than just the GNU tools.
  • The Linux kernel itself is absolutely on topic.
  • Non-Linux as well as non-GNU systems are absolutely on topic.
  • Everyone, with very few exceptions, calls it "Linux", this is a non-issue.
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    In formal speech or writing, I'll use "GNU/Linux" because it's both correct and polite. Informally, I mostly just use "Linux". The "controversy" hasn't been an issue for anyone for well over 20 years (and wasn't that big a deal at the time, anyway), except for a handful of easily triggered Macho-Libertarian broflake types ("You can't tell me what to say or how to say it!!!!!") and the trolls that enjoy triggering them.
    – cas
    Jun 26, 2022 at 13:45
  • I'd personally avoid using the term GNU/Linux unless I'm knowingly talking about predominantly GNU features. I know many distributions are GNU heavy, so it's not wrong to give deference to GNU. But as years go by, I'm seeing more systems using less GNU. I'm persinally seeing a rise of ZSH over Bash. I'd be curious to know how much GNU code exists in a typical Alpine linux install - using musl libc and busybox. Jul 12, 2022 at 12:42

As you will look at the timeline by clicking the link below (it can't be shown directly I am afraid), UNIX is the ancestor of a wide panel of OS.



Even if this was to cover linux only, calling it gnu/linux is still wrong. While a lot of the operating system surrounding the (not even all of it) use the GPL license, the Free Software Foundation does not own the copyright for most of these pieces, did not write them, and was not responsible for getting them written, and making it GPL licensed doesn't make it GNU.

Calling it GNU/Linux is really RMS's attempt to claim credit for all of linux because his own attempt at creating an open source Unix clone largely failed. While he did create large pieces (as the article in the other answer lists), even when this argument was hot, less than 1/3 of the Linux operating system was GNU (at the time, X11 was larger, and MIT licensed). Now, even more code has been added (again, listed by the article above) that may be GPL licensed but is not GNU owned or even GNU sponsored, and a lot of it is not even GPL licensed.

  • I think it would be more accurate to say "GPL licensed" rather than "GNU licensed". Jun 26, 2022 at 14:18
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    You are confusing a few things here. There is no "GNU licence", I think you are thinking of the various GNU Public Licences (GPL) and whether or not software is released under the GPL has absolutely nothing to do with whether the FSF (I am guessing that's what you mean by "GNU" since GNU is a collection of tools and not a legal entity) holds the copyright. GPL licensed software simply means their author chose to release the software under the GPL licence.
    – terdon Mod
    Jun 26, 2022 at 14:39
  • @terdon: You are correct. I will rephrase. This is actually the fundamental problem. GPL != GNU, and while a lot of the tools are GNU, even more of them are not.
    – user10489
    Jun 26, 2022 at 15:42
  • Thanks, I replaced GNU with FSF where you talk about copyright since GNU isn't a thing that can hold copyright, it is a collection of tools. I also removed pretentious in an attempt to tone this down a bit. It would be great if you could remove the rest of the opinion from your answer though since this isn't the place for it, but that's your call.
    – terdon Mod
    Jun 26, 2022 at 15:47
  • Good edit. I think it's a good balance between semantic accuracy and it being a huge mouthful. It's RMS's opinion that he should get credit when less than 1/3 of the code (and probably less than 1/6 now) is owned by FSF, so there's no avoiding opinion here. FSF isn't even the largest code owner in linux, and never was.
    – user10489
    Jun 26, 2022 at 15:49
  • pretentious: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than is actually possessed. I think this is exactly right. But I'll not put it back.
    – user10489
    Jun 26, 2022 at 15:57
  • I think this answer misses the point, thus scored more downvotes. There's a long history behind why the OS we all know and love "should have" always been named after GNU rather than Linux and it's not because of the licensing arrangement. It's because much of the codebase for the userspace programs is from GNU. Example "glibc" is the defacto C library even though there are many others. Jul 12, 2022 at 12:27
  • I'll not repeat what I said in my answer beyond this -- GNU is not and was not ever responsible for either the majority or even the biggest piece of the linux OS including what is outside the kernel.
    – user10489
    Jul 12, 2022 at 21:52

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