Do We Still Need The FSF, GNU and GPL?

Glyn Moody | The H Open | June 13, 2011

It's easy to take things for granted – to assume that the world will always be as it is. And then sometimes you receive a mild jolt: some new information appears that makes you sit up and reconsider your preconceptions. Here's one jolt I received recently:

After building the infrastructure to analyse the code in an Ubuntu release I decided to satisfy a simple curiosity and figure out how much GNU software is actually part of a modern distribution. I picked Ubuntu natty (released in April) as a reference, am counting lines of code (LOC) as the rough metric for size of a given project, and am considering only the “main” repository, supposedly the core of the distribution, actually packaged by Ubuntu and not repackaged from Debian.

Figure 1 shows the total LOC in Ubuntu natty split by the major projects that produce it. By this metric GNU software is about 8%. I didn’t include GNOME in the GNU category because it seems to now be effectively run outside GNU but including that the total for GNU would be around 13%...