Attached is an updated FAQ incorporating suggestions by Jonathan,
Ricardo, and Mark Galassi.
I clarified the private mailing list issue, hopefully addressing Mark’s
and Ricardo’s concerns.
I agree with Andreas that we should not introduce names other than “GNU
I added links regarding projects that “left”. That said, GNU being an
informal organization, it’s always been enough to say “I’m out” to
effectively be out, where “being out” means having your own governance
model and rules independent of GNU and its leadership. I’ve tried to
clarify that a bit. That you can be out while still being “GNU in name”
contributes to much confusion.
We could aim to publish it later today or tomorrow if there are no more
title: Answering frequently asked questions
author: The GNU Assembly
date: 2021-04-20 16:00:00
Following the [Assembly
we received lots of questions and read comments that deserved answers.
This post attempts to answer the most common questions.
# Meta-question: why so much confusion around GNU/FSF?
Good question! A common belief is that GNU and the Free Software
Foundation (FSF) are the same thing. This is untrue: GNU is not a
registered non-profit, it’s an informal association among contributors,
separate from the FSF. The FSF is oblivious to technical matters in
The FSF supports GNU development primarily in three ways: by taking care
of copyright assignments (for the few GNU packages that require it), as
a [fiscal sponsor](https://www.fsf.org/working-together/fund)
for a few
projects, and by providing infrastructure like
[Savannah](https://savannah.gnu.org). For the most part, the FSF
“supports GNU development” in the same way that Microsoft “supports” the
development of projects hosted on GitHub.
# Is this a fork of GNU?
No. The notion of “fork” applies to software.
What changes is how these people organize themselves beyond their
individual projects—from a
top-down model to a [community-oriented, consensus-based
# Is this backed by FSF/OSI/SFC/XYZ?
No, it’s not! The Assembly was founded by GNU maintainers and
contributors and receive no support, financial or otherwise, from any
three-letter-acronym organization. Evil Corp™ isn’t helping either.
# Is this _against_ FSF/OSI/SFC/XYZ?
Nope! The Assembly is not a _reaction_ to the three-letter acronym of
your choice—it’s first and foremost a _constructive_ project.
Is it at odds with the three-letter acronym you have in mind? Maybe!
But we’re interested in _building_ something more than in arguing about
what others are doing.
# You’re just a minority anyway
That’s not a question, but you’re right: about [30 people](/en/people),
mostly appointed GNU maintainers, endorsed the [Social
Contract](/en/documents/social-contract) so far and may participate in
the Assembly. The number keeps increasing but is still a fraction of
the number of contributors to GNU packages: there are 300+ GNU
maintainers “on file”, though not everyone and [not each project is
for all practical purposes despite being [still
projects have their own
governance model and rules, independent of “the rest of GNU”. To put it
differently, significant parts of GNU territory is no longer controlled
by the central government, if we dare such an analogy.
Anyways, is being a minority a problem? We don’t think so: we hope this
platform appeals to many GNU contributors and contributors-to-be, but we
can do great things even without on-boarding everyone!
# Why now? Is this really about <current event>?
While current events certainly motivated the decision to make our
efforts more visible, the desire for stronger collaboration
between GNU packages and for communal decision-making as it
pertains to a shared vision has been the subject of many
discussions among GNU maintainers and contributors over the past
decade or so.
# Why didn’t you try to effect change from the inside?
We did! It goes back to [at least ten years
back](/en/blog/2021/04/kicking-off-the-gnu-assembly/). The project was
met with enthusiasm from some and hostility from others. That’s fine,
we don’t have to agree!
Unfortunately, GNU would host project-wide discussions on private
mailing lists, so these discussions and soul searching were only known
to “insiders”. The Assembly is determined to have transparent
processes; everything we did, starting with the drafting process of the
Social Contract in 2019–2020, was done publicly.
# Do you support PDP-11 assembly?
Some us write assembly code (not sure about
though), but all this is
about [a different kind of