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Linux at its core is a kernel, the central driving force of an operating system that allocates resources to other aspects of the system. Linux, along with the GNU system (which is closely associated with Free Software Foundation) are now collectively referred to as GNU/Linux, and make up a complete operating system which is widely used today by millions across the world. To read more about the history of the GNU project and Linux, see this article.
Why use GNU/Linux?
The free software philosophy is about an open and shared operating system which not only free as in money, but free as in freedom. The GNU/Linux system gives users more control over their computing experience than competing operating systems such as Windows, which could contain malicious features to them without the user's knowledge.
What's all this about distributions?
There are a lot of GNU/Linux distributions, also known as distros.
Most distros are at least somewhat similar with each other. The main differences are between the init system, package manager (and the repositories it has access to), desktop environment, and default configurations. Most distros have their own little niche. Some are FSF compatible (or almost), for ricing, for getting shit done or just because you hate yourself or just love pain (arch/gentoo). Always at least try another distro before saying that you hate it. You will find that all of them have their own qualities. Distrowatch is a great place to find out more.