what are Linux /etc/ssl/certs?

I've newly installed Slackware64 14.1 in the directory /etc/ssl/certs are 229 .pem files, may of which are labeled 'Root' and almost all of which are linked to  .crt files in /user/share/ca-certificates.

I know what ssl certificates are, so I'm not asking for a tutorial, but what are all these files useful for? Why are they on my machine?
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jmarkfoleyAsked:
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TintinConnect With a Mentor Commented:
These are all the root CA certificates that comes with your distro.   The root certs are used to validate the certificates that are signed by the various CAs.
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Kamran ArshadConnect With a Mentor IT AssociateCommented:
Hi,

.pem Defined in RFC's 1421 through 1424, this is a container format that may include just the public certificate (such as with Apache installs, and CA certificate files /etc/ssl/certs), or may include an entire certificate chain including public key, private key, and root certificates. The name is from Privacy Enhanced Email, a failed method for secure email but the container format it used lives on, and is a base64 translation of the x509 ASN.1 keys.
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Dave BaldwinConnect With a Mentor Fixer of ProblemsCommented:
I believe that 'Root' certificates are used to validate the public ones like you see on web sites for secure 'https' connections.  Windows has a set of 'Root' certificates also that are used by IE and Chrome.  Firefox has it's own set, at least  on windows.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_certificate
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jmarkfoleyAuthor Commented:
All good/useful answers. I guess I won't delete that directory!
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Yes, you should keep it.  I almost Never delete directories, especially in Linux, without thoroughly researching their usage.  While Windows tends to put all the related things in one directory tree, Linux and Unix tend to spread different items in different parts of the directories.
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