So, disclosure, I’m not exactly a Stallman fan (though I deeply respect/appreciate what he has done for software and for the compiler alone), but I have two minds about giving him as much credit as he gets for the world that exists now.
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine that Linux (or any modern operating systems) existing the way they exist now without him.
Yes, the Unix wars ended up in the release/access the the software and with the various BSD favors and one could argue (and I think reasonably) that that would have happened with or without Stallman and GNU, but there is no question he helped change the game.
Still, I’m reminded by something a friend of mine told me. This friend created one do the first modern social networks (LiveJournal) and through LJ wrote memcached, without which basically the web as we know it would cease to be able to exist.
Anyway, my friend works at Google and does well for himself, but he hardly has the hundreds of millions or billions that many who have used his software have. And again, realize Facebook absolutely could not work without memcached.
So I asked him, “do you ever get frustrated that everyone else has gotten rich off your code?” And his response proves he’s a much better person than me. He said, “if I didn’t do it someone else would have.”
Now, I’m not so sure, but realistically, he’s probably right. And the same is likely probably true for GNU.
Would it be the same without Stallman, absolutely not. But I’m pretty sure we’d have some sort of easily accessible compiler (whether it met Richard’s definition of free or not doesn’t matter) and other rebuild Unix tools.
Just a thought. I’m glad the person that build GNU was Richard. I think the world is better for having someone with his ideals in it (even if I have major disagreements with some of those ideals). But sometimes I think he (and his supporters) act as if without him we’d be in the dark ages. And of that I’m just not convinced.