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Changing the world: The GNU project turns 30


It was 30 years ago that Richard Stallman announced the GNU project. An initiative that started with a programmer's frustration over a broken printer driver has changed our society. The idea of software that everyone can use, study, share and improve has proven very powerful indeed.

"Without the GNU project and the Free Software movement that it inspired, our everyday lives - and the Internet - would be a very different place right now," says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.

Free Software puts the control of electronic devices where it belongs: with the people who own them. Today, Free Software is everywhere. It powers the Internet, our mobile phones, televisions, cars, routers, and electronic devices of all sorts. Free Software has fundamentally changed the way people create software: instead of preventing people to adapt the software to their own needs, they invite people to participate in the development. 

"The GNU project has acted as the starting point of a movement that makes sure we can control technology, and not technology controlling us," says Matthias Kirschner, FSFE's head of Public Awareness.

The influence of the GNU project's approach to sharing knowledge goes far beyond the GNU/Linux operating system, and extends beyond computer programs. With the power of shared knowledge, Wikipedia has fast risen to become the world's mainstream encyclopedia. Creative Commons licenses let artists, musicians and authors use their work in ways ideally suited to the digital age. Scientists and engineers rely on Free Software tools to cure diseases and make everyone's life better. A generation of young people is now coming of age for whom sharing knowledge is simply the natural thing to do.

"We are grateful to Richard Stallman for sparking this epochal change, and to everyone who has worked so hard to drive Free Software's progress for three decades," says Gerloff. "Join our movement, support our work, and help us met the challenges ahead."