One of the most puzzling questions about the history of free and open source is this: Why did Linux succeed so spectacularly, whereas similar attempts to build a free or open source, Unix-like operating system kernel met with considerably less success? I don't know the answer to that question. But I have rounded up some theories, which I'd like to lay out here.
First, though, let me make clear what I mean when I write that Linux was a great success. I am defining it in opposition primarily to the variety of other Unix-like operating system kernels, some of them open and some not, that proliferated around the time Linux was born. GNU HURD, the free-as-in-freedom kernel whose development began in May 1991, is one of them. Others include Unices that most people today have never heard of, such as various derivatives of the Unix variant developed at the University of California at Berkeley, BSD; Xenix, Microsoft's take on Unix; academic Unix clones including Minix; and the original Unix developed under the auspices of AT&T, which was vitally important in academic and commercial computing circles during earlier decades, but virtually disappeared from the scene by the 1990s.
I'd also like to make clear that I'm writing here about kernels, not complete operating systems. To a great extent, the Linux kernel owes its success to the GNU project as a whole, which produced the crucial tools, including compilers, a debugger and a BASH shell implementation, that are necessary to build a Unix-like operating system. But GNU developers never created a viable version of the the HURD kernel (although they are still trying). Instead, Linux ended up as the kernel that glued the rest of the GNU pieces together, even though that had never been in the GNU plans.
So it's worth asking why Linux, a kernel launched by Linus Torvalds, an obscure programmer in Finland, in 1991—the same year as HURD—endured and thrived within a niche where so many other Unix-like kernels, many of which enjoyed strong commercial backing and association with the leading Unix hackers of the day, failed to take off. To that end, here are a few theories pertaining to that question that I've come across as I've researched the history of the free and open source software worlds, along with the respective strengths and weaknesses of these various explanations.
Linux Adopted a Decentralized Development Approach
This is the argument that comes out of Eric S. Raymond's essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," and related works, which make the case that software develops best when a large number of contributors collaborate continuously within a relatively decentralized organizational structure. That was generally true of Linux, in contrast to, for instance, GNU HURD, which took a more centrally directed approach to code development—and, as a result, "had been evidently failing" to build a complete operating system for a decade, in Raymond's view.
To an extent, this explanation makes sense, but it has some significant flaws. For one, Torvalds arguably assumed a more authoritative role in directing Linux code development—deciding which contributions to include and reject—than Raymond and others have wanted to recognize. For another, this reasoning does not explain why GNU succeeded in producing so much software besides a working kernel. If only decentralized development works well in the free/open source software world, then all of GNU's programming efforts should have been a bust—which they most certainly were not.
Linux is Pragmatic; GNU is Ideological
Personally, I find this explanation—which supposes that Linux grew so rapidly because its founder was a pragmatist who initially wrote the kernel just to be able to run a tailored Unix OS on his computer at home, not as part of a crusade to change the world through free software, as the GNU project aimed to do—the most compelling.
Still, it has some weaknesses that make it less than completely satisfying. In particular, while Torvalds himself adopted pragmatic principles, not all members of the community that coalesced around his project, then or today, have done the same. Yet, Linux has succeeded all the same.
Moreover, if pragmatism was the key to Linux's endurance, then why, again, was GNU successful in building so many other tools besides a kernel? If having strong political beliefs about software prevents you from pursuing successful projects, GNU should have been an outright failure, not an endeavor that produced a number of software packages that remain foundational to the IT world today.
Last but not least, many of the other Unix variants of the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially several BSD off-shoots, were the products of pragmatism. Their developers aimed to build Unix variants that could be more freely shared than those restricted by expensive commercial licenses, but they were not deeply ideological about programming or sharing code. Neither was Torvalds, and it is therefore difficult to explain Linux's success, and the failure of other Unix projects, in terms of ideological zeal.
Operating System Design
There are technical differences between Linux and some other Unix variants that are important to keep in mind when considering the success of Linux. Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project, pointed to these in explaining, in an email to me, why HURD development had lagged: "It is true that the GNU Hurd is not a practical success. Part of the reason is that its basic design made it somewhat of a research project. (I chose that design thinking it was a shortcut to get a working kernel in a hurry.)"
Linux is also different from other Unix variants in the sense that Torvalds wrote all of the Linux code himself. Having a Unix of his own, free of other people's code, was one of his stated intentions when he first announced Linux in August 1991. This characteristic sets Linux apart from most of the other Unix variants that existed at that time, which derived their code bases from either AT&T Unix or Berkeley's BSD.
I'm not a computer scientist, so I'm not qualified to decide whether the Linux code was simply superior to that of the other Unices, explaining why Linux succeeded. But that's an argument someone might make—although it does not account for the disparity in culture and personnel between Linux and other Unix kernels, which, to me, seem more important than code in understanding Linux's success.
The "Community" Put Its Support Behind Linux
Stallman also wrote that "mainly the reason" for Linux's success was that "Torvalds made Linux free software, and since then more of the community's effort has gone into Linux than into the Hurd." That's not exactly a complete explanation for Linux's trajectory, since it does not account for why the community of free software developers followed Torvalds instead of HURD or another Unix. But it nonetheless highlights this shift as a large part of how Linux prevailed.
A fuller account of the free software community's decision to endorse Linux would have to explain why developers did so even though, at first, Linux was a very obscure project—much more so, by any measure, than some of the other attempts at the time to create a freer Unix, such as NET BSD and 386/BSD—as well as one whose affinity with the goals of the free software movement was not at first clear. Originally, Torvalds released Linux under a license that simply prevented its commercial use. It was considerably later that he switched to the GNU General Public License, which protects the openness of source code.
So, those are the explanations I've found for Linux's success as an open source operating system kernel—a success which, to be sure, has been measured in some respects (desktop Linux never became what its proponents hoped, for instance). But Linux has also become foundational to the computing world in ways that no other Unix-like OS has. Maybe Apple OS X and iOS, which derive from BSD, come close, but they don't play such a central role as Linux in powering the Internet, among other things.
Have other ideas on why Linux became what it did, or why its counterparts in the Unix world have now almost all sunk into obscurity? (I know: BSD variants still have a following today, and some commercial Unices remain important enough for Red Hat (RHT) to be courting their users. But none of these Unix holdouts have conquered everything from Web servers to smartphones in the way Linux has.) I'd be delighted to hear them.
The history of Linux began in 1991 with the commencement of a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds to create a new free operating system kernel. Since then, the resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history. Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to the 4.15 version in 2018 with more than 23.3 million lines of source code without comments under the GNU General Public License v2.(p7)
Events leading to creation
After AT&T had dropped out of the Multics project, the Unix operating system was conceived and implemented by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (both of AT&T Bell Laboratories) in 1969 and first released in 1970. Later they rewrote it in a new programming language, C, to make it portable. The availability and portability of Unix caused it to be widely adopted, copied and modified by academic institutions and businesses.
In 1977, the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) was developed by the Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG) from UC Berkeley, based on the 6th edition of Unix from AT&T. Since BSD contained Unix code that AT&T owned, AT&T filed a lawsuit (USL v. BSDi) in the early 1990s against the University of California. This strongly limited the development and adoption of BSD.
In 1983, Richard Stallman started the GNU project with the goal of creating a free UNIX-like operating system. As part of this work, he wrote the GNU General Public License (GPL). By the early 1990s, there was almost enough available software to create a full operating system. However, the GNU kernel, called Hurd, failed to attract enough development effort, leaving GNU incomplete.
In 1985, Intel released the 80386, the first x86 microprocessor with a 32-bitinstruction set and a memory management unit with paging.
In 1986, Maurice J. Bach, of AT&T Bell Labs, published The Design of the UNIX Operating System. This definitive description principally covered the System V Release 2 kernel, with some new features from Release 3 and BSD.
In 1987, MINIX, a Unix-like system intended for academic use, was released by Andrew S. Tanenbaum to exemplify the principles conveyed in his textbook, Operating Systems: Design and Implementation. While source code for the system was available, modification and redistribution were restricted. In addition, MINIX's 16-bit design was not well adapted to the 32-bit features of the increasingly cheap and popular Intel 386 architecture for personal computers. In the early nineties a commercial UNIX operating system for Intel 386 PCs was too expensive for private users.
These factors and the lack of a widely adopted, free kernel provided the impetus for Torvalds' starting his project. He has stated that if either the GNU Hurd or 386BSD kernels had been available at the time, he likely would not have written his own.
The creation of Linux
In 1991, while studying computer science at University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds began a project that later became the Linux kernel. He wrote the program specifically for the hardware he was using and independent of an operating system because he wanted to use the functions of his new PC with an 80386 processor. Development was done on MINIX using the GNU C Compiler. The GNU C Compiler is still the main choice for compiling Linux today, but can be built with other compilers, such as the Intel C Compiler.
As Torvalds wrote in his book Just for Fun, he eventually ended up writing an operating system kernel. On 25 August 1991, he (at age 21) announced this system in a Usenet posting to the newsgroup "comp.os.minix.":
Hello everybody out there using minix -
I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).
I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)
Linus (email@example.com)PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.
— Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds had wanted to call his invention Freax, a portmanteau of "free", "freak", and "x" (as an allusion to Unix). During the start of his work on the system, he stored the files under the name "Freax" for about half of a year. Torvalds had already considered the name "Linux," but initially dismissed it as too egotistical.
In order to facilitate development, the files were uploaded to the FTP server (ftp.funet.fi) of FUNET in September 1991. Ari Lemmke at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), who was one of the volunteer administrators for the FTP server at the time, did not think that "Freax" was a good name. So, he named the project "Linux" on the server without consulting Torvalds. Later, however, Torvalds consented to "Linux".
To demonstrate how the word "Linux" should be pronounced ([ˈliːnɵks]), Torvalds included an audio guide ( listen (help·info)) with the kernel source code.
Linux under the GNU GPL
Torvalds first published the Linux kernel under its own licence, which had a restriction on commercial activity.
The software to use with the kernel was software developed as part of the GNU project licensed under the GNU General Public License, a free software license. The first release of the Linux kernel, Linux 0.01, included a binary of GNU's Bash shell.
In the "Notes for linux release 0.01", Torvalds lists the GNU software that is required to run Linux:
Sadly, a kernel by itself gets you nowhere. To get a working system you need a shell, compilers, a library etc. These are separate parts and may be under a stricter (or even looser) copyright. Most of the tools used with linux are GNU software and are under the GNU copyleft. These tools aren't in the distribution - ask me (or GNU) for more info.
In 1992, he suggested releasing the kernel under the GNU General Public License. He first announced this decision in the release notes of version 0.12. In the middle of December 1992 he published version 0.99 using the GNU GPL. Linux and GNU developers worked to integrate GNU components with Linux to make a fully functional and free operating system. Torvalds has stated, "making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did."
Around 2000 Torvalds clarified that the used license for the linux kernel is exactly the GPLv2, without the common "or later clause".
In 2007, after years of draft discussions, the GPLv3 was released and Torvalds and the majority of kernel developers decided against adopting the new license for the linux kernel.
GNU/Linux naming controversy
Further information: GNU/Linux naming controversy
The designation "Linux" was initially used by Torvalds only for the Linux kernel. The kernel was, however, frequently used together with other software, especially that of the GNU project. This quickly became the most popular adoption of GNU software. In June 1994 in GNU's bulletin, Linux was referred to as a "free UNIX clone", and the Debian project began calling its product Debian GNU/Linux. In May 1996, Richard Stallman published the editor Emacs 19.31, in which the type of system was renamed from Linux to Lignux. This spelling was intended to refer specifically to the combination of GNU and Linux, but this was soon abandoned in favor of "GNU/Linux".
This name garnered varying reactions. The GNU and Debian projects use the name, although most people simply use the term "Linux" to refer to the combination.
Torvalds announced in 1996 that there would be a mascot for Linux, a penguin. This was due to the fact when they were about to select the mascot, Torvalds mentioned he was bitten by a little penguin (Eudyptula minor) on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia. Larry Ewing provided the original draft of today's well known mascot based on this description. The name Tux was suggested by James Hughes as derivative of Torvalds' UniX, along with being short for tuxedo, a type of suit with color similar to that of a penguin.[page needed]
The largest part of the work on Linux is performed by the community: the thousands of programmers around the world that use Linux and send their suggested improvements to the maintainers. Various companies have also helped not only with the development of the kernels, but also with the writing of the body of auxiliary software, which is distributed with Linux. As of February 2015, over 80% of Linux kernel developers are paid.(p11)
It is released both by organized projects such as Debian, and by projects connected directly with companies such as Fedora and openSUSE. The members of the respective projects meet at various conferences and fairs, in order to exchange ideas. One of the largest of these fairs is the LinuxTag in Germany, where about 10,000 people assemble annually, in order to discuss Linux and the projects associated with it.
Open Source Development Lab and Linux Foundation
The Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) was created in the year 2000, and is an independent nonprofit organization which pursues the goal of optimizing Linux for employment in data centers and in the carrier range. It served as sponsored working premises for Linus Torvalds and also for Andrew Morton (until the middle of 2006 when Morton transferred to Google). Torvalds worked full-time on behalf of OSDL, developing the Linux kernels.
On 22 January 2007, OSDL and the Free Standards Group merged to form The Linux Foundation, narrowing their respective focuses to that of promoting Linux in competition with Microsoft Windows. As of 2015, Torvalds remains with the Linux Foundation as a Fellow.
Despite being freely available, companies profit from Linux. These companies, many of which are also members of the Linux Foundation, invest substantial resources into the advancement and development of Linux, in order to make it suited for various application areas. This includes hardware donations for driver developers, cash donations for people who develop Linux software, and the employment of Linux programmers at the company. Some examples are Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which validate, use and sell Linux on their own servers, and Red Hat and SUSE, which maintain their own enterprise distributions. Likewise, Digia supports Linux by the development and LGPL licensing of Qt, which makes the development of KDE possible, and by employing some of the X and KDE developers.
KDE was the first advanced desktop environment, but it was controversial due to the then-proprietary Qt toolkit used.GNOME was developed as an alternative due to licensing questions. The two use a different underlying toolkit and thus involve different programming, and are sponsored by two different groups, German nonprofit KDE e.V. and the United States nonprofit GNOME Foundation.
As of April 2007, one journalist estimated that KDE had 65% of market share versus 26% for GNOME. In January 2008, KDE 4 was released prematurely with bugs, driving some users to GNOME. GNOME 3, released in April 2011, was called an "unholy mess" by Linus Torvalds due to its controversial design changes.
Dissatisfaction with GNOME 3 led to a fork, Cinnamon, which is developed primarily by Linux Mint developer Clement LeFebvre. This restores the more traditional desktop environment with marginal improvements.
The relatively well-funded distribution, Ubuntu, designed (and released in June 2011) another user interface called Unity which is radically different from the conventional desktop environment and has been criticized as having various flaws and lacking configurability. The motivation was a single desktop environment for desktops and tablets, although as of November 2012 Unity has yet to be used widely in tablets. However, the smartphone and tablet version of Ubuntu and its Unity interface was unveiled by Canonical Ltd in January 2013.
"Linux is obsolete"
Main article: Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate
In 1992, Andrew S. Tanenbaum, recognized computer scientist and author of the Minix microkernel system, wrote a Usenet article on the newsgroup comp.os.minix with the title "Linux is obsolete", which marked the beginning of a famous debate about the structure of the then-recent Linux kernel. Among the most significant criticisms were that:
- The kernel was monolithic and thus old-fashioned.
- The lack of portability, due to the use of exclusive features of the Intel 386 processor. "Writing a new operating system that is closely tied to any particular piece of hardware, especially a weird one like the Intel line, is basically wrong."
- There was no strict control of the source code by any individual person.
- Linux employed a set of features which were useless (Tanenbaum believed that multithreaded file systems were simply a "performance hack").
Tanenbaum's prediction that Linux would become outdated within a few years and replaced by GNU Hurd (which he considered to be more modern) proved incorrect. Linux has been ported to all major platforms and its open development model has led to an exemplary pace of development. In contrast, GNU Hurd has not yet reached the level of stability that would allow it to be used on a production server. His dismissal of the Intel line of 386 processors as 'weird' has also proven short-sighted, as the x86 series of processors and the Intel Corporation would later become near ubiquitous in personal computers and servers.
In his unpublished book Samizdat, Kenneth Brown claims that Torvalds illegally copied code from MINIX. In May 2004, these claims were refuted by Tanenbaum, the author of MINIX:
[Brown] wanted to go on about the ownership issue, but he was also trying to avoid telling me what his real purpose was, so he didn't phrase his questions very well. Finally he asked me if I thought Linus wrote Linux. I said that to the best of my knowledge, Linus wrote the whole kernel himself, but after it was released, other people began improving the kernel, which was very primitive initially, and adding new software to the system--essentially the same development model as MINIX. Then he began to focus on this, with questions like: "Didn't he steal pieces of MINIX without permission." I told him that MINIX had clearly had a huge influence on Linux in many ways, from the layout of the file system to the names in the source tree, but I didn't think Linus had used any of my code.
The book's claims, methodology and references were seriously questioned and in the end it was never released and was delisted from the distributor's site.
Competition from Microsoft
Although Torvalds has said that Microsoft's feeling threatened by Linux in the past was of no consequence to him, the Microsoft and Linux camps had a number of antagonistic interactions between 1997 and 2001. This became quite clear for the first time in 1998, when the first Halloween document was brought to light by Eric S. Raymond. This was a short essay by a Microsoft developer that sought to lay out the threats posed to Microsoft by free software and identified strategies to counter these perceived threats.
Competition entered a new phase in the beginning of 2004, when Microsoft published results from customer case studies evaluating the use of Windows vs. Linux under the name “Get the Facts” on its own web page. Based on inquiries, research analysts, and some Microsoft sponsored investigations, the case studies claimed that enterprise use of Linux on servers compared unfavorably to the use of Windows in terms of reliability, security, and total cost of ownership.
In response, commercial Linux distributors produced their own studies, surveys and testimonials to counter Microsoft's campaign. Novell's web-based campaign at the end of 2004 was entitled “Unbending the truth” and sought to outline the advantages as well as dispelling the widely publicized legal liabilities of Linux deployment (particularly in light of the SCO v IBM case). Novell particularly referenced the Microsoft studies in many points. IBM also published a series of studies under the title “The Linux at IBM competitive advantage” to again parry Microsoft's campaign. Red Hat had a campaign called “Truth Happens” aimed at letting the performance of the product speak for itself, rather than advertising the product by studies.
In the autumn of 2006, Novell and Microsoft announced an agreement to co-operate on software interoperability and patent protection. This included an agreement that customers of either Novell or Microsoft may not be sued by the other company for patent infringement. This patent protection was also expanded to non-commercial free software developers. The last part was criticized because it only included non-commercial free software developers.
In July 2009, Microsoft submitted 22,000 lines of source code to the Linux kernel under the GPLV2 license, which were subsequently accepted. Although this has been referred to as "a historic move" and as a possible bellwether of an improvement in Microsoft's corporate attitudes toward Linux and open-source software, the decision was not altogether altruistic, as it promised to lead to significant competitive advantages for Microsoft and avoided legal action against Microsoft. Microsoft was actually compelled to make the code contribution when Vyatta principal engineer and Linux contributor Stephen Hemminger discovered that Microsoft had incorporated a Hyper-V network driver, with GPL-licensed open source components, statically linked to closed-source binaries in contravention of the GPL licence. Microsoft contributed the drivers to rectify the licence violation, although the company attempted to portray it as a charitable act, rather than one to avoid legal action against it. In the past Microsoft had termed Linux a "cancer" and "communist".
By 2011, Microsoft had become the 17th largest contributor to the Linux kernel. As of February 2015, Microsoft was no longer among the top 30 contributing sponsor companies.(pp10–12)
Main article: SCO-Linux controversies
In March 2003, the SCO Group accused IBM of violating their copyright on UNIX by transferring code from UNIX to Linux. SCO claims ownership of the copyrights on UNIX and a lawsuit was filed against IBM. Red Hat has countersued and SCO has since filed other related lawsuits. At the same time as their lawsuit, SCO began selling Linux licenses to users who did not want to risk a possible complaint on the part of SCO. Since Novell also claims the copyrights to UNIX, it filed suit against SCO.
SCO has since filed for bankruptcy.
In 1994 and 1995, several people from different countries attempted to register the name "Linux" as a trademark. Thereupon requests for royalty payments were issued to several Linux companies, a step with which many developers and users of Linux did not agree. Linus Torvalds clamped down on these companies with help from Linux International and was granted the trademark to the name, which he transferred to Linux International. Protection of the trademark was later administered by a dedicated foundation, the non-profit Linux Mark Institute. In 2000, Linus Torvalds specified the basic rules for the assignment of the licenses. This means that anyone who offers a product or a service with the name Linux must possess a license for it, which can be obtained through a unique purchase.
In June 2005, a new controversy developed over the use of royalties generated from the use of the Linux trademark. The Linux Mark Institute, which represents Linus Torvalds' rights, announced a price increase from 500 to 5,000 dollars for the use of the name. This step was justified as being needed to cover the rising costs of trademark protection.
In response to this increase, the community became displeased, which is why Linus Torvalds made an announcement on 21 August 2005, in order to dissolve the misunderstandings. In an e-mail he described the current situation as well as the background in detail and also dealt with the question of who had to pay license costs:
[...] And let’s repeat: somebody who doesn’t want to _protect_ that name would never do this. You can call anything "MyLinux", but the downside is that you may have somebody else who _did_ protect himself come along and send you a cease-and-desist letter. Or, if the name ends up showing up in a trademark search that LMI needs to do every once in a while just to protect the trademark (another legal requirement for trademarks), LMI itself might have to send you a cease-and-desist-or-sublicense it letter.
At which point you either rename it to something else, or you sublicense it. See? It’s all about whether _you_ need the protection or not, not about whether LMI wants the money or not.[...] Finally, just to make it clear: not only do I not get a cent of the trademark money, but even LMI (who actually administers the mark) has so far historically always lost money on it. That’s not a way to sustain a trademark, so they’re trying to at least become self-sufficient, but so far I can tell that lawyers fees to _give_ that protection that commercial companies want have been higher than the license fees. Even pro bono lawyers charge for the time of their costs and paralegals etc.
— Linus Torvalds
The Linux Mark Institute has since begun to offer a free, perpetual worldwide sublicense.
See also: Linux adoption
- 1991: The Linux kernel is publicly announced on 25 August by the 21-year-old Finnish student Linus Benedict Torvalds.
- 1992: The Linux kernel is relicensed under the GNU GPL. The first Linux distributions are created.
- 1993: Over 100 developers work on the Linux kernel. With their assistance the kernel is adapted to the GNU environment, which creates a large spectrum of application types for Linux. The oldest currently (as of 2018) existing Linux distribution, Slackware, is released for the first time. Later in the same year, the Debian project is established. Today it is the largest community distribution.
- 1994: Torvalds judges all components of the kernel to be fully matured: he releases version 1.0 of Linux. The XFree86 project contributes a graphical user interface (GUI). Commercial Linux distribution makers Red Hat and SUSE publish version 1.0 of their Linux distributions.
- 1995: Linux is ported to the DEC Alpha and to the Sun SPARC. Over the following years it is ported to an ever-greater number of platforms.
- 1996: Version 2.0 of the Linux kernel is released. The kernel can now serve several processors at the same time using symmetric multiprocessing (SMP), and thereby becomes a serious alternative for many companies.
- 1998: Many major companies such as IBM, Compaq and Oracle announce their support for Linux. The Cathedral and the Bazaar is first published as an essay (later as a book), resulting in Netscape publicly releasing the source code to its Netscape Communicator web browser suite. Netscape's actions and crediting of the essay brings Linux's open source development model to the attention of the popular technical press. In addition a group of programmers begins developing the graphical user interface KDE.
- 1999: A group of developers begin work on the graphical environment GNOME, destined to become a free replacement for KDE, which at the time, depends on the, then proprietary, Qt toolkit. During the year IBM announces an extensive project for the support of Linux.
- 2000: Dell announces that it is now the No. 2 provider of Linux-based systems worldwide and the first major manufacturer to offer Linux across its full product line.
- 2002: The media reports that "Microsoft killed Dell Linux"
- 2004: The XFree86 team splits up and joins with the existing X standards body to form the X.Org Foundation, which results in a substantially faster development of the X server for Linux.
- 2005: The project openSUSE begins a free distribution from Novell's community. Also the project OpenOffice.org introduces version 2.0 that then started supporting OASISOpenDocument standards.
- 2006: Oracle releases its own distribution of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Novell and Microsoft announce cooperation for a better interoperability and mutual patent protection.
- 2007: Dell starts distributing laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed on them.
- 2009: Red Hat's market capitalization equals Sun's, interpreted as a symbolic moment for the "Linux-based economy".
- 2011: Version 3.0 of the Linux kernel is released.
- 2012: The aggregate Linux server market revenue exceeds that of the rest of the Unix market.
- 2013: Google's Linux-based Android claims 75% of the smartphone market share, in terms of the number of phones shipped.
- 2014: Ubuntu claims 22,000,000 users.
- 2015: Version 4.0 of the Linux kernel is released.
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