The GNU Manifesto was written by Richard Stallman and published in March 1985 in Dr. Dobb's Journal of Software Tools as an explanation and definition of the goals of the GNU Project, and to call for participation and support developing GNU, a free software computer operating system. It is held in high regard within the free software movement as a fundamental philosophical source. The full text is included with GNU software such as Emacs, and is publicly available.
The GNU Manifesto begins by outlining the goal of the project GNU, which stands for GNU's Not Unix. The contents of GNU, current at the time of writing, are then described and detailed. Richard Stallman gives a fairly elaborate rationalization of the importance and benefits of seeing the project to fruition. One of the major driving points behind the GNU project, according to Stallman, is the (at the time) rapid trend toward Unix and its various components becoming proprietary (ie. closed-source and non-libre) software. Later on, the GNU Manifesto details how nearly everyone benefits from the project. In essence, this is broken into two parts - the benefits to contributors and the benefits to consumers/community as a whole. In other words, software developers (contributors) may modify, enhance, correct, etc. the source code under these terms; thereby contributing to the overall stability and feature-set of the software. Additionally, developers may even use the GNU Licensed code in their own applications (provided an exact copy of the received GNU license is included with all distributions). The second part of this section explains how it's not just the developers who will benefit, but also the end-users. The general trend throughout is that, in the opinion of the authors, everyone benefits from the project's stated goals. A fairly large part of the GNU Manifesto is focused on rebutting possible objections to GNU Project's goals. Objections described here include the programmer's need to make a living, the issue of advertising/distributing free software, and the perceived need of a profit incentive. Most of this text explains how the free software philosophy works, and why it would be a good choice for the technology industry to follow.
- Stallman, Richard (March 1985). "Dr. Dobb's Journal". Dr. Dobb's Journal. 10 (3): 30. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Stallman, Richard (March 1985). "The GNU Manifesto - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)". gnu.org. GNU Project. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
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