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Why We Exist



As the computer continues to become increasingly pervasive in our personal, social and working lives, the soul of the machine -- software -- is seemingly trapped in a battle of proprietary ownership.

In the early days of computing, it was customary for programmers to share software. Since the 1970s, however, much software has become proprietary, such that its users have been prevented from sharing, let alone modifying, programs. By the 1980s, proprietary software had become commonplace, and the computing community was losing the freedom to cooperate in using and altering software.
Freedom was under attack.

The Free Software Foundation

The owners of software had erected walls to divide us from each other.

Those words came from the one person who has zealously campaigned to safeguard software freedoms--Richard M. Stallman, a celebrated programmer and an accomplished hacker. (Contrary to popular belief, a hacker is not an anti-social being. S/he is someone who is passionate, even obsessive, about programming, as opposed to a cracker, someone who breaks security on a system, often with malicious intent.)

Stallman, then working at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, left to pursue the Free Software Movement in 1984, inspired by the ideals of American independence: freedom, community and voluntary co-operation, which leads to free enterprise, free speech and free software. He had already started the GNU project in 1983 to develop the free operating system GNU (a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix).

In 1985 Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF), dedicated to promoting computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify and redistribute computer programs.

The FSF promotes the development and use of free software and free documentation. In particular, FSF promotes the GNU operating system, used widely today in its GNU/Linux variant, based on the Linux kernel developed by Linus Torvalds. These systems are often mistakenly called just `Linux'; calling them `GNU/Linux' corrects this confusion.

The FSF (, whose headquarters is in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is a tax-exempt charity for free software development. It raises funds by selling GNU CD-ROMs, T-shirts, manuals and deluxe distributions (all of which users are free to copy and change), as well as from donations.

The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. The FSF believes that free software is a matter of freedom, not price.

FSF India

The Free Software Foundation of India (FSF India), the official Indian affiliate of the FSF, was formally inaugurated by Richard Stallman at the Freedom First! Conference at Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala on 20 July 2001.

FSF INDIA will be the national agency for the promotion of the use of free software, i.e. software distributed under the GNU General Public Licence (GNU GPL) or other licences approved by FSF, in all domains.

The Vision of FSF India

Broadly, FSF India will strive to ensure that free software is strengthened in all respects so as to form a genuine, credible and viable alternative to proprietary software for every kind of application.

To do so, FSF India will:

  • Promote awareness about free software among the general public and, specifically, among programmers and students.
  • Increase access to free software by users in India.
  • Promote the development of local solutions to local problems by empowering local programmers in the use of free platforms, tools and technologies.
  • Provide support to free software by way of documentation, expert help or any other means.
  • Help organize training for programmers and users of free software platforms and software.
  • Carry out R&D work for free software solutions to suit local requirements.
  • Provide services for the free software programmer community by, for example, locating and distributing jobs.
  • Assist the national and State governments in all aspects relating to free software, such as evolving and maintaining standards; providing a quality assurance mechanism for free software; and ensuring the use of free software in government and quasi-government milieux.
  • Provide services such as adjudication and conflict redressal within the free software domain.
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