Chapter 1. Introduction -- What is the Debian Project?

Table of Contents

1.1. In the Beginning
1.2. Pronouncing Debian

The Debian Project is a worldwide group of volunteers who endeavor to produce an operating system distribution that is composed entirely of free software. The principle product of the project to date is the Debian GNU/Linux software distribution, which includes the Linux operating system kernel, and thousands of prepackaged applications. Various processor types are supported to one extent or another, including 32 and 64 bit x86, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC and IBM S/390.

Debian motivated the formation of Software in the Public Interest, Inc., a New York-based non-profit organization. SPI was founded to help Debian and other similar organizations develop and distribute open hardware and software. Among other things, SPI provides a mechanism by which The Debian Project may accept contributions that are tax deductible in the United States.

For more information about free software, see the Debian Social Contract and associated Debian Free Software Guidelines, or the Debian What Does Free Mean? page.

The Debian Project was officially founded by Ian Murdock on August 16th, 1993. (There is also a scanned printout of that announcement.) At that time, the whole concept of a "distribution" of Linux was new. Ian intended Debian to be a distribution which would be made openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU (read his manifesto provided as an appendix to this document for more details). The creation of Debian was sponsored by the FSF's GNU project for one year (November 1994 to November 1995).

Debian was meant to be carefully and conscientiously put together, and to be maintained and supported with similar care. It started as a small, tightly-knit group of Free Software hackers, and gradually grew to become a large, well-organized community of developers and users.

When it began, Debian was the only distribution that was open for every developer and user to contribute their work. It remains the most significant distributor of Linux that is not a commercial entity. It is the only large project with a constitution, social contract, and policy documents to organize the project. Debian is also the only distribution which is "micro packaged" using detailed dependency information regarding inter-package relationships to ensure system consistency across upgrades.

To achieve and maintain high standards of quality, Debian has adopted an extensive set of policies and procedures for packaging and delivering software. These standards are backed up by tools, automation, and documentation implementing all of Debian's key elements in an open and visible way.

The official pronunciation of Debian is 'deb ee n'. The name comes from the names of the creator of Debian, Ian Murdock, and his wife, Debra.