After 20 Years, Linux Looks Better Than Ever

The Linux Foundation's annual LinuxCon North America event kicks off today in Vancouver, B.C., and its primary focus this year is the 20th anniversary of the free and open source operating system.

It was August of 1991 when 20-year-old Linus Torvalds first created Linux with only the most modest of ambitions. “Just a hobby, won't be anything big and professional like GNU,” Torvalds wrote in what's become the kernel's famous introductory email. “It probably will never support anything other than AT-hard disks, as that's all I have.”

It didn't take long for developers around the globe to become excited and get involved in the new operating

Linux Then and Now: A closer look (Click for larger view. Credit: Linux Foundation)
system, however, and the rest--as they say--is history. Version 3.0 of the Linux kernel just recently made its debut, and companies around the world now rely heavily on the operating system.

A Linux-Based World

Seventy-five percent of stock exchanges worldwide now run Linux, in fact, as do the servers that power Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Google, to name just a few. Ninety-five percent of supercomputers run Linux too, as do a variety of automated teller machines and other critical devices.

Then, of course, there's Ubuntu, which is bringing Linux to more desktops than ever before. And let's not forget the little matter of Android, which has put Linux at the very heart of the mobile arena.

Bottom line: Linux is now an indispensable part of our world, and consumers use it every day, whether they realize it or not.

Ubuntu in the Lead

As part of its celebration of Linux's 20-year history, the Linux Foundation recently compiled an interesting set of statistics comparing the state of the operating system in its early days with where it stands now.

Linux User Habits (Click for larger view. Credit: Linux Foundation)
Part of the statistics included were collected through a survey sent to registered LinuxCon participants. The results are graphically shown in the infographics in this story.

Among the more interesting tidbits, I think, is that Ubuntu has come to account for the majority of the Linux distributions used, with 34 percent, whereas Fedora/Red Hat used to take first place with 45 percent, according to the Linux Foundation's survey results.

The FUD Factor

Also telling is the fact that whereas Linux used to be used by most participants primarily at home--as opposed to work, school or not at all--today the majority use it everywhere, with the “all of the above” category claiming a full 48 percent. That's quite a testament.

Finally, the very last item shown--“Biggest challenge for the platform”--certainly rings true. FUD is still being used by Linux's competitors all the time. More marketing, I'd add, is one thing Linux needs next to gain even more ground.

In any case, as the video below illustrates in further detail, it's mind-boggling to see how far Linux has come in 20 years. I can't wait to see the next 20 unfold.

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