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Why "Windows Subsystem for Linux" and not "GNU/Windows"? #218

frantret opened this Issue Jun 15, 2018 · 3 comments


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frantret commented Jun 15, 2018


I'm totally convinced by the importance of having something like the WSL in Windows. Thank you so much for having integrated such a feature so nicely in Windows.

As far as I understand, the WSL is about making the ecosystem usually found in GNU/Linux or BSD systems able to access the Windows kernel. No other kernel than the Windows one is involved: neither the Linux kernel, nor the BSD kernel... So basically, the WSL is about running GNU ecosystem on top of the Windows kernel. Is that correct?

That might seem superficial as a remark, but I find it wrong that the WSL was named like that. I also find it unfair, because it puts credit on Linux rather that on the GNU project.

Something in the lines of "GNU/Windows" or "Windows Subsystem for GNU" would have been better in my opinion.

Am I the only one having such an opinion?

Kind regards


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Amitie10g commented Jun 16, 2018 — with

It is simple: WSL is just a compatibility layer that simulates a Linux kernel environment in order to run ELF binaries and system call translation, not anything else, nor GNU, and closed source. The GNU userland is provided by the Linux distributions (eg. Ubuntu), found in the Microsoft Store. The fact it is oriented to run mainly GNU userland is not enough reason to add "GNU", to the name of this technology, because WSL is just "Linux" (kernel) (or "Linux-like" to be exact).

Not all Linux distributions has GNU userland, for example Azure Sphere or RouterOS (Mikrotik). Android has some GNU tools, but is not considered as GNU/Linux, just Linux (Project Astoria was an attemp to run Android apps in Windows Phone).


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tomasorti commented Jan 15, 2019

Someone interested in this issue, may be interested in this article:

Some extracts:

Before we can discuss this subject, we need to clarify some terminology: We have a free/libre operating system called GNU. Usually, it’s used with the kernel Linux, and is together called the GNU/Linux (or GNU+Linux) operating system. But that’s not always the case. For example, GNU can be run with its own kernel, The GNU Hurd (GNU/Hurd). It might be run on a system with a BSD kernel (e.g. GNU/kFreeBSD). But now, we have a situation where we’re taking GNU/Linux, removing Linux, and adding in its place a Windows kernel. This combination is referred to as GNU/kWindows (GNU with the Windows kernel added).

This naming issue is so widespread that most users would not recognize what GNU is, even if they are using a GNU/Linux operating system. I recently read an article that referred to GNU Bash as “Linux’s Bash”; this is simply a slap in the face to all the hackers that have for the past 26 years been writing what is one of today’s most widely used shells on Unix-like systems (including on Apple’s proprietary Mac OSX), and all the other GNU hackers.

But read the whole article, it is worthy.

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tassoman commented Feb 27, 2019 — with

I don't have enough thumbsup for this comments 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍

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