How Linux conquered the world without anyone noticing

This week Linux celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.

linus

Linus Torvalds on stage at LinuxCon NA.

Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Twenty-five years ago, on August 25, 1991, a Finnish developer named Linus Torvalds announced a new project. At the time, he believed it wouldn't be as big or as professional as GNU. Fast forward to 2016, and today Linux has conquered the world, without anyone even noticing.

Today Linux powers almost the entire Internet. It runs super computers. It runs on smart cars, smart phones, laptops, stock exchanges and embedded devices. Almost everything runs on Linux. The only field yet to be captured is the desktop market, but ChromeOS is making a serious dent.

Even Microsoft is investing heavily in Linux, and the company is using it to build components of the Azure Cloud. Linux has enabled companies such as Red Hat to create extremely successful billion-dollar business models around open source.

One of the most important contributions of Linux has been that it has made commercial entities comfortable with open source technologies. "Linux has proved that you can better yourself by bettering everyone else," said Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, this week at LinuxCon North America in Toronto.

Who is writing all this code?

Zemlin called Linux the largest shared technology in history. According to the latest Linux Kernel Development report, "Since 2005, some 14,000 individual developers from over 1,300 different companies have contributed to the kernel."

A major part of this contribution comes from tech companies. Intel topped the list of contributors, followed by Red Hat, Linaro, Samsung, SUSE and IBM.

The kernel itself grew from 10,000 lines of code to more than 22 million lines in the last 25 years.

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