The meaning of Hurd is self-referentially recursive. It intends to be the GNU OS. It seems that it is always "close to ready", and perhaps that is where it always will be. It is interesting that this all started way, way back, before Linux.
There has always been tension between GNU and Linux, but Richard Stallman's explanation of why FSF didn't use Linux is probably accurate - I don't think it was Not Invented Here syndrome.
The Hurd is a microkernel design (meaning kernel services are provided by separate servers), and it is possible to run your own kernel components without affecting other users, and without risking crashing the whole machine. This makes it a very interesting environment for those wanting to learn more about kernel programming.
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