The Linux kernel is at the heart of the software that powers most of the world’s smartphones and most of the servers that hold the internet together. But when founder Linus Torvalds first announced the Linux project on August 25th, 1991, it was just one person’s attempt to create  free and open source alternative to Unix (or more precisely, MINIX).

A lot has changed in the past 25 years.

GNOME 3 desktop environment
GNOME 3 desktop environment

The Year of the Linux Desktop may have never really arrived, but today millions of people use GNU/Linux-based operating systems on notebook and desktop PCs. These include Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and many, many others.

But even if you’ve never heard of those operating systems, odds are that you’ve interacted with Linux software. A lot.

Google’s Android operating system uses a Linux kernel. So while it doesn’t look and feel much like the desktop version of an operating system like Ubuntu, there’s a good chance that the operating system on your phone relies on Linux. And the web largely runs on Linux — thanks to Linux-based operating systems such as CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, and SuSE.

New Linux-based operating systems are being created all the time, including software like Tizen (which runs on Samsung’s smartwatches, smart TVs, and some smartphones) and Internet-of-Things operating systems like the Yocto Project.

What started as a one-person project consisting of 10,000 lines of code has grown to an operating system with 22 million lines of code, maintained by 5,000 developers and 500 companies. Today you can even run some Linux software in Windows 10. Maybe the year of the Linux desktop has finally arrived after all.

Happy birthday, Linux!


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