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This article is on The GNU Project. For the system, see GNU/Linux
The GNU Project is a project dedicated to making an entire, fully functional operating system composed entirely of free software. While GNU is UNIX-like, it's not UNIX. In fact, GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's not UNIX". The common distribution of their operating system is with use of the Linux kernel, thus making the system GNU/Linux. However, The GNU Project has been developing its own kernel, GNU Hurd, since the late 1980's.
The story of the GNU Project all starts with our GNU/Lord and GNU/Savior, Richard Stallman. After coming up with the idea of free software at MIT, Stallman set off to create the first free operating system.
After The GNU Project was fully set up, work begun on the GNU system. This included development of the GNU Core Utilities, designed to replace every proprietary tool in mainline UNIX systems, such as AT&T UNIX System V.
Development on a GNU system became complete around the end of the 1980's, only a decade later. However, one major thing was missing, the kernel. GNU Hurd was then going under active development, but due to lack of developers and commitment, it has never reached the mainline stage. Development still continues, however. It was once said by Richard Stallman that GNU Hurd will be the most important package developed by him and his foundations, however since the mid 2000's, he has put less emphasis on its development, choosing rather to endorse linux-libre kernels for the time being.
In 1992, Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel, which was a UNIX-Like kernel much like what GNU was attempting to do. Linus said that he never expected this kernel to go anywhere, and it wouldn't be professional like GNU. After releasing his kernel under The GNU Public License (v2), the Linux kernel began to be a part of the GNU system.
In the early 2000's, the bundling of the Linux kernel with the GNU Userland caused Richard Stallman to correct followers of free software into calling it GNU/Linux (Ganoo slash Lineux) or GNU+Linux (ganoo plus Lineux). It was the view of Richard that the GNU system is a full system as defined under the POSIX UNIX Specifications. The Linux Kernel was just the missing part. This has caused some Debate on what to actually call the system, however followers of the Free Software Foundation, the GNU Project's counterpart, automatically call it GNU/Linux out of respect of the FSF, and to show what team they play for, so to speak.