Whonix and Free System Distribution Guidelines (GNU FSDG)


Can Whonix be examined according to these rules?


//cc @HulaHoop


We do not conform to the FSF’s strict definition of distros that “respect your freedom” because we ship with non-free and contrib enabled and because we depend on non-free firmware in some cases like microcode security updates for physical builds. The fact that Debian merely supports non-free repos is enough to disqualify them and since we are based on Debian and can optionally use these, the same would apply to us.

As for TBB they strip out EME for security reasons (The EME code was open source but non-modifiable and therefore not libre). There is nothing non-free about anything TBB ships with. The fact that TBB renders non-free JS does not make it non-free but it offends purists. However if TPO were to enforce libreJS they would break 90%+ of sites out there and devastate their user base - not a smart move.

PS. I think “alreadyburnt” is @eyedeekay


thats facing every distro even GNU distros, so its not something will disqualify us. although its considered horrible one once we shipped it automatically.

we can be disqualified (i think):

1- allowing contrib , non-free
2- using debian kernel but not libre-kernel

but hope they can discuss that with us.


Nope it’s me. Thanks for clarifying about EME, though, I honestly thought it was left in and I will remove the reference to DRM from my reddit post.


Quote https://www.gnu.org/distros/common-distros.html

  • FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD all include instructions for obtaining nonfree programs in their ports system.

  • Debian’s wiki includes pages about installing nonfree firmware.

Mentioning anything nonfree in instructions already disqualifies.

So mentioning intel-microcode / amd64-microcode here sadly disqualifies us.


Alot asking me why Whonix is not GNU-FSDG yet, its already mentioned in the above comments the summary would be:

:name_badge: FSDG break:

The system should have no repositories for nonfree software

:name_badge: FSDG break:

What would be unacceptable is for the documentation to give people instructions for installing a nonfree program on the system, or mention conveniences they might gain by doing so.

:sparkle: Though it can be negotiable with:

For a borderline case, a clear and serious exhortation not to use the nonfree program would move it to the acceptable side of the line.

Whonix is not complete distro that works without an extra installation steps e.g Hypervisor.

:name_badge: FSDG Break:

Our list of distributions is a guide for systems you can install in a computer. Therefore, it only includes distributions that are complete in themselves and ready to use. If a distribution is incomplete — if it requires further development, or presupposes installing other software as well — then it is not listed here, even if it is free software.

:sparkle: Negotiable exception to this rule maybe with:

but it must be developable and buildable on top of a free complete system distribution from our list of distributions, perhaps with the aid of free tools distributed alongside the small system distribution itself.

Kinda Sadly as well , if someone wants to overcome the mentioned notes and make a GNU FSDG Whonix derivative he cant name it Whonix-something e.g Whonix-I2P or Whonix-KVM …etc. This will lead to:

:name_badge: FSDG Break:

We will not list a distribution whose name makes confusion with nonfree distributions likely. For example, if Foobar Light is a free distribution and Foobar is a nonfree distribution, we will not list Foobar Light. This is because we expect that the distinction between the two would be lost in the process of communicating the message.

(They mentioned non-free distro , Whonix is free distro. but not sure if they meant/include non-FSDG)

But in general all are minor/trivial changes if someone want to list forked Whonix into GNU distro list.


@HulaHoop would you like to communicate with GNU and see if they will accept Whonix - KVM as an FSDG distro, and what needs to be changed if not. (They need the developer of the distro to communicate with them)


Can you please find me their email to send questions?


its either licensing@fsf.org or gnu@gnu.org cant remember which one i contacted but you can try both.




Reply received. Do you want to continue taking this up?

Hello, you can check out the instructions for applying here <https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.en.html>. The process kicks off with an email to <webmasters@gnu.org>. Cheers!


Sure but what happened? did they accepted only Whonix-KVM or Whonix as a whole? did they requested anything to be deleted or shifted like KVM documentation out from Whonix documentation (since the documentation as a whole contains some stuff which go against FSDG).

although they mention in that page:

If you maintain a distribution that follows the Free System Distribution Guidelines and would like to be listed here, please write to <webmasters@gnu.org> with an introduction and a link to the project Web site. When you do, we’ll explain more about our evaluation process to you, and get started on it quickly. We look forward to hearing from you!

so maybe they will ask me technical stuff to be added or changed…etc please clarify what happened so i know how to speak with them.

great job tho :slight_smile:


Alright done.


Here’s the reply:


Thanks for letting us know about Whonix.

Since you can’t run a VM without a physical machine, I would think
that both operating systems should be entirely made of free software
for the combination to qualify as free. Free distros do exist for
the physical machines, so I suppose it would be feasible to eliminate
all nonfree blobs from Whonix (at the expense of some hardware
restrictions?). But the resulting distro would have to be completely
separate from its nonfree parent: different repos, no reference to
nonfree blobs, etc.

You probably know about the Free System Distribution Guidelines, but
here is the link, just in case:

Best regards,

Summary: As a virtual OS we can only be counted as free as much as the underlying host is. Since 99.9% of Linux/Qubes users will rely on blobs to run their machine, this is pretty much DOA.


Then the only way for that is to combine Whonix-KVM with any already FSDG distro exist since they use/recommend installing Qemu over Vbox.

Maybe as well if Qubes going to be free software (once free hardware support it).