Debian receives Linux New Media Award

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I'm here to congratulate the Debian project. Debian has recently taken a nearly unprecedented step, one that many people thought would never come to pass: The project has updated its website design.

Today, Debian receives the "Linux New Media Award" for its *outstanding contribution* to Free Software. I could hardly think of a more fitting recipient for such an award.

Debian is coming of age, literally. In August, the distribution will turn 18.

Debian offers great technology. It's stable. Really stable. It's highly flexible, and performs well in lots of different roles. IT supports more different architectures than almost anything else out there. It runs on pretty much anything. The package management is great. It makes a highly complex system of almost 30,000 packages extremely simple to configure and use.

Debian started out as a true pioneer. When the project was created in 1993, the whole concept of a "distribution" wasn't too well established. Ian Murdock announced the project thus:

"Debian Linux is a brand-new kind of Linux distribution. Rather than being developed by one isolated individual or group, as other distributions of Linux have been developed in the past, Debian is being developed openly in the spirit of Linux and GNU. [...] Debian is being carefully and conscientiously put together and will be maintained and supported with similar care."

At a recent conference, the current Debian project lead, Stefano Zacchiroli, gave a talk titled "Who the bloody hell cares about Debian?"

Turns out that many people do indeed. Debian is the GNU/Linux distribution that has the most derivatives based on it -- currently 128, if Distrowatch.com is to be believed: Ubuntu, Knoppix, gNewSense, and many more. And those distributions again have their own derivatives. None of these could function without Debian.

Lots of people rely on Debian. That makes it all the more important that Debian is so reliable. The Debian project gives us Free Software that is both rock-solid and exciting.

But the greatest thing about Debian is not the fact that it delivers great software. Other distributions do that, too.

The big thing about Debian is the *idea* of Debian: The idea that a massive Free Software project can be totally independent.

Debian shows how it's possible to build a highly reliable operating system without a formal body. The project has created some pretty complex structures to run itself, as a do-ocracy, based on consensus and running code.

This is important. We are currently debating how Free Software projects can best be governed in the long run. How do we make sure that a project's users can always enjoy the freedom they deserve? How can we structure a project in a way that makes it immune to a hostile takeover?

Oracle's acquisition of Sun has shown that these are important question. A Free Software license, preferably one like the GPL that protects freedom in the long run, is an important first step. But a Free Software project consists of much more than code.

While uncounted people and companies are earning good money with Debian, the Debian project itself can't be bought -- simply because there is noone you could buy it from. Debian has been doing vendor independence long before it was cool.

What I love most about Debian is that like few other big projects, Debian has the idea of freedom at its core.

Debian's Free Software guidelines are a central manifesto for software freedom. The Debian Social Contract does not mention a single package or program. But it is without a doubt one of Debian's most important pieces of documentation.

In Debian, quality is the focus of everyone's attention. But those who work on the Debian system know that great software is worth nothing without Freedom.

With the release of Squeeze, the latest stable version, in February, Debian has taken the important step of offering a completely free kernel, with no binary blobs. This is a first for a major distribution in recent times. Debian is giving its users Freedom by default.

And this Freedom for users and developers on a massive scale truly is Debian's outstanding contribution, not just to Free Software, but to the information society.

On behalf of the Free Software Foundation Europe, I would like to thank everyone in Debian for their work, and congratulate them on this award. It's well deserved. Keep up the good work!

Even with the idea of freedom at its core, some issues remain that prevent Debian from being included in the list of fully free distributions maintained by FSF US. These issues concern the way in which Debian integrates the Contrib and Nonfree sections. We are looking forward to seeing these issues clarified and resolved to mutual satisfaction.