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Happy Birthday To GNU! — The FSFE Celebrates the GNU Project's 25th Birthday!

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the initial announcement of the GNU Project, a pioneering initiative to develop an operating system that gives all users the freedom to modify it and publish modified versions, individually or working together. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) commends the substantial achievements of GNU's first quarter-century and looks forward to furthering their shared goal of facilitating software freedoms.

27th September 2008 — 25 years ago today, the GNU Project was launched by Richard M. Stallman with the goal of creating an entire operating system that anyone was free to use, study, share and improve. These freedoms grant all users the independence and flexibility to use their computer for any purpose, without the artificial restrictions which proprietary software imposes, such as vendor lock-in, proprietary file formats and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). From its humble origins in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, GNU has grown to be one of the most popular operating systems in the world and fostered the development of thousands of other Free Software applications.

The Free Software Foundation (FSFE's sister organisation based in Boston, MA) was founded in 1985 to promote the core idea behind Stallman's GNU Project: that the freedom to examine, modify, copy, and share software is essential for a just, free society. Much of the work was done between 1983 and 1991, and this laid the groundwork for many third-party projects which later also brought these freedoms to computer users. The operating system was completed in 1992 by the third-party development of a core component called "Linux". The success of GNU/Linux operating system encouraged the development of many other Free Software projects such as Firefox, KDE and Today, there are hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions in the world, powering millions of computers ranging from web servers and kitchen appliances to cellphones and laptops.

"The contributions of the GNU project to the computing world are difficult to overstate", says Georg C. F. Greve, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). "For the first time there was an awareness of Free Software, and the concept of Copyleft revolutionised the way in which freedom is spread and protected. Both intellectual achievements laid the groundwork for the immense success of GNU/Linux, which has meanwhile established itself as the primary competitor to proprietary operating systems across the gamut of computing, from large-scale scientific research to affordable consumer laptops. In so doing GNU was at the root of giving users control over their computing environment and data."

The FSFE was established in 2001 to further the political and social goals that also provide the basis of the GNU Project, and to support the flourishing European Free Software community. "The FSFE works closely with its partners around Europe and beyond to ensure that the spirit of Stallman's original announcement is backed up with practise, and works to promote awareness of the Free Software message", explains Shane Coughlan, coordinator of the FSFE's Freedom Task Force.

More and more countries are turning to Free Software for use in the public sector and education. While many businesses have long been using and contributing to Free Software in order to gain marketplace advantages and cost savings, governments are increasingly realising the benefits of Free Software in terms of sovereignty, transparency, and self-determination. By its very nature of promoting sharing, collaboration, and sustainability, Free Software ensures that all users have the ability to determine and shape their computing future.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and involved in many global activities. Access to software determines participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study, modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues of the FSFE.

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