Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is Linux

Despite it's meager market share, it's surprising how rich and varied the Linux community is. There are differences in philosophies and outlook. In fact, they very definition of what Linux is, varies.

Here is what I think Linux is:

Technology: Of course, first and foremost, Linux is the technology. There is the Linux kernel. And then there is the giant world of open source software that runs on that kernel to create a wonderful computing environment. Some people consider only the kernel to be 'Linux'. I don't agree. The entire software ecosystem for me is Linux.

Community: Linux would be nothing without the community. There are the developers who create such wonderful software mostly on a voluntary basis. Then there are designers and bug reporters and packagers and maintainers and webadmins and forum moderators. The community is huge. And last but not the least, the users. The entire body of people is an inseparable part of 'Linux'. For me, it is not possible to see people as separate from the technology they create and use.

Philosophy: Although differences exist, most philosophies in the Linux world are the variations on the same theme - that software should be free (as in freedom) and open. The technology and community are built around these core beliefs and would have little meaning if the philosophy is given up. Some people don't believe that the philosophy is important or that it's too militant. I don't think that's the case. If philosophy is not important, why have Linux at all? Why not just Windows or OS X?

For me, Linux is the inseparable trio of these three components.


  1. It would be appropriate to consider the kernel only as Linux.
    The user level things were part of GNU even before Linux.

    I think some GNU purist do no like Linux taking too much of the GNU/FSF credit.

    Also the Community/Philosophy idea is common to all Open/Free Software

    But Linux did make the idea influential and poplar

  2. Everyone who considers this issue (whether to call the OS as a whole Linux or GNU/Linux) should at least read these 4 pages to understand the GNU Project's point of view: http://bit.ly/JwckQ http://bit.ly/eNgxB http://bit.ly/a5i7gH http://bit.ly/jem3hT After all, they began the whole thing (in '83, before Linux was written).