I do not call Linux “GNU/Linux.” I am not only referring to the kernel, but the entire system, programs and all. Why? Many other people call it “GNU/Linux.” Here’s why I call Linux just Linux.
First, for a little background:
The “GNU/Linux” movement began when the Free Software Foundation (FSF) began calling for Linux distributions to call themselves GNU/Linux, because the applications on top of Linux (just the kernel to the FSF) are mainly based on the GNU license. They just wanted the credit.
Here’s why I call Linux, Linux and not GNU/Linux
1. The FSF is a radical, activist organization. They created one of the best open source licenses, but take a moment to listen to Richard Stallman, the head of the FSF. Once you do, it becomes clear that the organization has radical political and software ambitions. Patents, and Microsoft, are “evil” in their minds, and so are other large companies such as Coca-Cola. I personally do not think Microsoft is “evil” (reflecting the views of many Ubuntu supporters), simply because the most vocal supporters of anti-Linux talk is found in the upper-management of the company.
2. The license should not determine the name of the software. Imagine for a moment, if most Linux applications were released under the MIT license. Would we be calling it MIT/Linux? In my mind, the license does not make the program. Afterall, do you call all the applications “GNU-enternameofapphere?” When referring to Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS, you do not call them EULA/Windows, or BSD/MacOS (or whatever license Apple falls under).
3. Credit goes to the actual programmers, not the GNU writers. Sure, the GPL is, in my opinion, the best open source license. When the FSF asks for credit, they themselves did not write the code to the thousands of applications that use the license, but rather, simply the license. Many programmers choose the GPL for the freedom that it provides. Things were (and are) built on Linux, not on GNU, as there is no system called GNU. They did have a kernel going, called Hurd, but it never really went anywhere.
4. It’s too hard to explain GNU/Linux to people, especially to those who are new or unaware of Linux. Even though I typically start by introducing them to Ubuntu, they eventually ask about what Ubuntu is based on. I tell them “Linux.” I can’t imagine explaining to someone what GNU/Linux means on top of Linux. Really, going through Linux is a kernel, GNU is all of the applications, GNU stands for… etc. You can see that it really become to far complex to explain to people the whole GNU/Linux thing. For another look at it, Microsoft does not call Windows Win32/Windows. It’s just too dificult to explain the technicalities of the system if it has a complicated name.
Personally, I do not believe that GNU is Linux, and that’s why I do not call it GNU/Linux. I do think it is the most popular license, but as I wrote above, I don’t think it makes the system. Software freedom is a large part of Linux and the Linux universe, but to make one of the open source licenses the focus of a growing system seems pointless, and to be honest, a little selfish. Some distributions have chosen to use the GNU/Linux sub-name. Several are full GNU application licensed systems, and others want to make a tribute to the FSF. If they decide to do so, then I will call them GNU/Linux. When placing this issue into reality, it really is not a large issue compared to other issues. The GNU/Linux only aids in dividing the community, and adding to the infighting. I believe this simple fact: keep above it the infighting and radicalism, and you will succeed. Just look at Ubuntu!
For the reasons I listed above, I will, as I have in the past, call Ubuntu and other Linux distributions who choose to do so, Linux.
Update: See my follow-up post here.
Update 2: See my final review of the topic here.