John Gilmore (activist)

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John Gilmore
John Gilmore Portrait.jpg
Gilmore in 2014
Born 1955[1] (age 60–61)[2][3]
York, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Known for Co-Founder of the EFF

John Gilmore (born 1955)[1][2][3] is one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Cypherpunks mailing list, and Cygnus Solutions. He created the alt.* hierarchy in Usenet and is a major contributor to the GNU project.

An outspoken civil libertarian, Gilmore has sued the FAA, Department of Justice, and others. He unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of secret law regarding travel security policies in Gilmore v. Gonzales.[2][3]

Gilmore is also an advocate for the relaxing of drug laws, and has given financial support to, among others, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, Erowid, MAPS, Flex Your Rights, and various organizations seeking to end the war on drugs.

Life and career[edit]

As the fifth employee of Sun Microsystems and founder of Cygnus Support, he accumulated sufficient wealth to take an early retirement and pursue other interests.

He is a frequent contributor to free software, and worked on several GNU projects, including maintaining the GNU Debugger in the early 1990s, initiating GNU Radio in 1998, starting Gnash in December 2005 to create a free software player for Flash movies, and writing the pdtar program which became GNU tar. Outside of the GNU project he founded the FreeS/WAN project, an implementation of IPsec, to promote the encryption of Internet traffic. He sponsored the EFF's Deep Crack DES cracker, the Micropolis city building game based on SimCity, and he is a proponent of opportunistic encryption.

Gilmore is co-author with Bill Croft of the 1985 Bootstrap Protocol (RFC 951), which evolved into DHCP, the primary way to obtain an IP address upon joining an Ethernet or wireless network.


Gilmore owns the domain name, which is one of the 100 oldest active .com domains. It was registered on August 18, 1987. He runs the mail server at as an open mail relay. In October 2002, Gilmore's ISP, Verio, cut off his Internet access for running an open relay, a violation of Verio's terms of service. Many people contend that open relays make it too easy to send spam. Gilmore protests that his mail server was programmed to be essentially useless to spammers and other senders of mass email and he argues that Verio's actions constitute censorship. He also notes that his configuration makes it easier for friends who travel to send email, although his critics counter that there are other mechanisms to accommodate people wanting to send email while traveling. The measures Gilmore took to make his server useless to spammers may or may not have helped, considering that in 2002, at least one mass-mailing worm that sent through open relays—W32.Yaha—had been hardcoded to relay through the mailserver.

Gilmore famously stated of Internet censorship that "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it".[4]

Gilmore has given financial support to, among others, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, Erowid, MAPS, Flex Your Rights, and various organizations seeking to end the war on drugs. He is a member of the boards of MAPS, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[5]


Gilmore has received the Free Software Foundation's Advancement of Free Software 2009 award.[6]


  1. ^ a b The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 2005. p. 115. John Gilmore (1955-) 
  2. ^ a b c Willing, Richard (October 10, 2004). "Airline ID requirement faces legal challenge". USA Today. 
  3. ^ a b c Egelko, Bob (December 9, 2005). "Judges cool to ID complaint". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  4. ^ "First Nation in Cyberspace". Time. December 6, 1993. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Board". Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Free Software Awards Announced". Free Software Foundation. March 24, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 

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