Richard Stallman on handing over GNU Emacs

After 32 years, Richard Stallman is stepping down from being the lead maintainer/developer on Emacs. Paul Macnamara wanted to interview him about the decision (which, after all, represents a significant moment in the history of software). He got his interview — but only after agreeing to these conditions:

I’ll answer your questions if you promise me that the story will avoid a couple of frequent errors.

One common error is referring to a free operating system as “Linux.” That system is basically GNU; Linux is actually the kernel, one program in the system. Calling the whole system “Linux” means giving the system’s principal developer none of the credit. See (this link) for more explanation.

Would you please agree to distinguish consistently in your article between Linux, the kernel, and GNU/Linux, the entire system? Since GNU Emacs is part of GNU, this is directly relevant.

The other common error is labeling me, GNU, GNU/Linux, or the GNU GPL with the term “Open Source.” That is the slogan adopted in 1998 by people who reject the philosophy of the Free Software Movement. They have the right to promote their views, but we would like to be associated with our views, not theirs. For more explanation, see (this link).

My response to your questions, based on the ideals of the Free Software Movement, would be very different from what a supporter of Open Source would say.

Could you please agree to refer to this work as Free Software in your article, and not as Open Source? In particular, please don’t describe GNU Emacs as “Open Source.”

Er, I had originally categorised this post under ‘Open Source’ but, not wishing to incur the wrath of Richard, have re-categorised it!

Actually, I rather agree with him. ‘Open Source’ was a term coined to placate the US business community, which regards the word ‘free’ as a synonym for ‘communist’.