gzip is GNU zip, a data-compression program distributed by the Free Software Foundation as part of the GNU Project. You are encouraged to visit their WWW site at http://www.gnu.org/software/gzip.
The following is extracted from a file on a GNU mirror site which describes GNU software:
Because the unix `compress' utility is patented (by two separate patents, in fact), we cannot use it; it's not free software. Therefore, the GNU Project has chosen a new compression utility, `gzip', which is free of any known software patents and which tends to compress better anyway. Files compressed with this new compression program end in `.gz' (as opposed to `compress'-compressed files, which end in `.Z'). Gzip can uncompress `compress'-compressed files and SVR4 `pack' files (which end in `.z'). This is possible because the various decompression algorithms are not patented --- only compression is.
The gzip program is available from any GNU mirror site in shar, tar, or gzipped tar format (for those who already have a prior version of gzip and want faster data transmission). It works on virtually every unix system, MSDOS, OS/2, and VMS.
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Updated: 2002-01-01 ceaf