Stallman on handing over GNU Emacs

Stallman on handing over GNU Emacs, its future and the importance of nomenclature

The message posted Friday, February 22 on emacs-devel by Richard Stallman was cryptic: "Stefan and Yidong offered to take over, so I am willing to hand over Emacs development to them."

Just like that: 32 years after bringing the GNU Emacs text editor into the developer world, Stallman is relinquishing his role as its maintainer. The following day, I e-mailed him a few questions about his decision and the future of Emacs, which he graciously agreed to answer after first eliciting from me this Stallmanesque pledge:

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.

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.

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."

In this case, I had only a few questions and they all pertained to Richard Stallman and GNU Emacs, so I'd agree to call the work synchronized swimming in the interest of getting answers. Sunday dinnertime, having been assured of my intended compliance, he answered:

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