Linux is now 25 years old, but it’s no hipster. It’s not chasing around Pokemon, and it’s not moving back in with its parents due to crippling student debt. In fact, Linux is still growing and evolving, but the core ideas of the Linux State of Mind remain the same.
You see, Linux is much more than an operating system, it’s a mindset. Even if you don’t agree with its philosophy, you can’t afford to ignore it.
That’s why we decided to pay homage to this iconic operating system and the ever-growing community of developers who keep it going.
To mark the occasion, the Linux Foundation recently published the seventh edition of its Linux Kernel Development Report, which offers a detailed recap of all the work done over the past couple of decades. The adoption of Git, 10 years ago, made tracking easier (not that we’re looking for exact numbers here). It’s estimated that more than 14,000 developers have invested time and effort in Linux kernel development since 2005. This army of talent comes from more than 1,300 companies, and the report lists a number of industry heavyweights as the main sponsors of Linux kernel development: Intel, Samsung, Red Hat, AMD, Google, ARM, Texas Instruments and more.
While it’s the epitome of open-source, Linux kernel development is not a hobby. Not anymore. So, as we wish Linux a happy birthday, let’s take a quick look at some kernel development highlights:
- 25 years of development
- Contributions from 14,000 developers since 2005
- 5,000 new developers joined the effort in the past 30 months
- ~22 million lines of code currently constitute the Linux Kernel
- More than 4,500 lines of new code added each day
- Development is speeding up
Linux State of Mind
When it was first released in August 1991, few could have imagined the long-term impact of Linus Torvalds’ open-source OS on the software industry. At the time, the tech landscape was dominated by a handful of big players, the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and IBM. The nineties were an era of rapid technological progress, and new technologies – most notably the Internet – made remote, distributed development a possibility.
Developers halfway around the globe could finally collaborate on immensely complex software projects. It goes without saying that Toptal, and indeed every freelancer, owes a debt of gratitude to Linux pioneers who validated the concept of remote software development in an era of dial-up internet. They made it work, without Git, Skype, broadband, and a bunch of other technologies and tools we take for granted today. In fact, most of these tools were in part made possible by Linux-based servers and many are open-source.
But what drove the industry to adopt Linux? Well, to put it bluntly, the simple fact of not being Microsoft was a big part of it. A lot of UNIX people just had an issue with proprietary operating systems and wanted an open-source alternative. Diehards couldn’t reconcile with the fact that mainstream operating systems were a proprietary walled garden. Their vision was to create an open-source alternative, something that everyone could use free of charge, something they could modify and redistribute at will.
Idealism and business rarely cross paths, but when they do, we often end up with novel ideas backed by passionate proponents and criticized by equally passionate detractors. The idea of an open-source software ecosystem is as powerful today as it was in the early nineties, and with a quarter century of Linux development behind us, we can get a better idea of its profound impact on industry.
Open-Sourcing and Democratising The Internet
But wait, most of us are reading this on non-Linux systems: Windows and Mac rigs, smartphones and tablets running UNIX-like operating systems, so why aren’t we on Linux systems? Well, we are, at least sort of. How many LAMP servers sprung into action today, to serve you your daily dose of emails, social feed updates, useless ads and (mis)information?
Personally, I think this is the biggest contribution to mankind made by the Linux community: Linux-based servers helped our industry take off and legitimized the open-source concept.
It was no longer about UNIX enthusiasts trying to create an open-source alternative to fight The Empire; Linux took on big brands on their home turf and emerged victorious. The concept was vindicated and mainstreamed, proving once and for all that open-source isn’t just a heartwarming notion; It’s good for business.
What did we get out of it?
Linux helped lower the bar for developers and entrepreneurs entering the industry. Successful Linux distros grabbed a sizeable market share in the hosting industry, generating pressure on competing platforms. In this war of attrition, Linux servers prevailed thanks to a number of factors. In the end, they came to dominate many market segments. Today, anyone can get a reasonably powerful hosting plan for peanuts, and if they’re looking for the cheapest possible solution, they’re bound to end up with a flavor of Linux. The rest of the stack is usually as free and open as Linux itself.
That’s what our side of the industry got out of Linux: The ability to quickly deploy products on low-cost, open-source infrastructure.
How many pet projects, started on the cheap, turned into multi-billion enterprises? How many would have failed had it not been for Linux?
Where’s the Money Linuxowski?
A common misconception about Linux development is that it’s handled solely by enthusiasts and that it’s not a niche for people looking to cash in. While Linux is a labor of love, it’s also big business in its own way.
As I highlighted earlier, development is speeding up, and more Linux developers from more companies are choosing to contribute. They’re not simply choosing to set aside their precious time because they are good Linux folk; the latest report states that the number of unpaid developers working on the kernel has dropped to 7.7 percent, dipping into single-digit territory for the first time.
While some might not agree, I see this is a very positive trend. Enthusiasm doesn’t pay bills, and it’s hard to keep any project going on enthusiasm alone for more than a few years, let alone a gargantuan project like Linux that came into being a generation ago.
It doesn’t end there. According to numerous surveys, demand for Linux talent remains robust, and is actually increasing, and so is the Linux server market share. A few years ago, it would have been much easier to tally up the number of shipped servers, motherboards, and other hardware, and figure out the number of Linux boxes in the wild.
This is no longer the case.
Linux in The Cloud
A dark Cloud came along and made this process more difficult, much to the dismay of analysts. When your job is to look at numbers and market trends, any lack of data or ambiguity is bad for business, and for a while analysts expressed concerns about the future of Linux in the post-cloud era. These concerns made a lot of sense (and, to some extent, still do) because the cloud ecosystem was an oligopoly from the get-go, dominated by the Amazons and Googles of the world.
The Cloud did not kill off small Linux servers, but it hasn’t been kind to them either:
At one end of the spectrum, you’ll find people who believe the cloud will transform the server market, and through consolidation, will forever change the hosting industry. This economy of scale argument is tempting because it’s logical to assume cloud industry leaders will offer superior pricing by virtue of their size. You don’t get sweetheart hardware deals if you have a small, regional datacenter and need a couple of hundred fresh boxes every year; you get them if you have a massive cloud infrastructure and need dozens of new servers on a weekly basis. However, I find this argument overly simplistic.
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The opposing camp espouses equally simplistic views, but it tends to be more optimistic. A lot of Linux veterans have high hopes for cloud development; they believe CloudStack and OpenStack will help turn the tide, and they think there will always be room for smaller players.
As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but let’s not weigh in on this; it’s beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that both options could work for Linux in the long run. Even if the hosting industry is forever transformed and consolidated, that doesn’t mean demand for Linux talent will evaporate. On the contrary, it’s likely to increase regardless of what happens, although demand will evolve to meet new requirements.
The Next 25 Years
What do the next 25 years have in store for Linux?
It’s hard to say, but I have a feeling Linux isn’t going anywhere, at least not in the foreseeable future:
The server industry is evolving, but it’s been doing so forever. Linux has a habit of seizing server market share, although the cloud could transform the industry in ways we’re just beginning to realize. Either way, Linux servers aren’t going anywhere just yet.
Linux still has a relatively low market share in consumer markets, dwarfed by Windows and OS X. This will not change anytime soon.
Linux does not have a significant share in mobile, although Android currently dominates this space. Mobile is becoming an Android/iOS duopoly. It’s oversaturated; there are too many software and hardware platforms out there, so it’s doubtful Linux will ever take off in this market.
Gaming is a potentially huge, untapped market for Linux. This market is dominated by Windows in the desktop segment, proprietary operating systems in the console space, and Android and iOS in mobile. Valve’s SteamOS is the latest attempt to get Linux on gaming rigs, and it’s a promising concept. Unfortunately, demand for Steam Machines has been soft and Linux still has a negligible market share in the gaming industry.
Emerging segments include the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, smart home devices, and more. Due to its open-source nature and the potential for a very small OS footprint, Linux-based operating systems could find their way into a range of connected devices, from our homes and cars to our places of business.
High-performance computing has a good chance of becoming a Linux-only space. Linux has practically replaced UNIX and other operating systems in current-generation supercomputers.
It’s hard to make Linux-related predictions due to the nature of the OS and the Linux community. Evolution doesn’t necessarily have to be a straight line, and Linux developers have proven this time and again. Linux could morph into something completely different over the next couple of decades and become the OS of choice for various products and services we can’t even imagine today.
Further Reading on the Toptal Engineering Blog:
- University of Minnesota Linux Ban Prompts Questions About Open Source
- Separation Anxiety: A Tutorial for Isolating Your System with Linux Namespaces
— Update: 19-03-2023 — us.suanoncolosence.com found an additional article Linux, happy 30th birthday! What the future holds for Linux from the website www.techrepublic.com for the keyword what is the future of linux.
Today marks the official 30th birthday of the Linux operating system. Let’s all dig into that penguin-shaped cake and talk about where we were when it all began. Or, maybe we’ll chat about all of the fun times we’ve had with Linux over the years, or how it shaped our lives and altered the trajectory of our professional endeavors.
Now let’s talk about the future. After all, we know the past. We’ve learned from our mistakes and celebrated our successes. The thing about prognostication is that it’s nothing more than a guessing game. But sometimes pondering what the future holds can be an enjoyable way of flexing the brain’s muscles and positing a world of possibilities.
SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
With Linux, it’s all about possibility. It always was and always will be. That’s probably one of the greatest aspects of the open-source operating system Linus Torvalds created … the impossible becomes possible, and the sky’s the limit. No other operating system can hold to that claim. And in my mind, the next 30 years of Linux should be absolutely incredible.
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But with so much success under its belt? Where does Linux go now?
- It’s conquered enterprise businesses.
- It owns the cloud.
- It rules the Internet of Things and has mastered the edge.
- It is the heart of containers.
Obviously, in the next 30 years, some seriously remarkable technology will come to light. Chances are, Linux will be at the center of those new developments. But if I could point to one area that should be the focus for Linux in the coming years, I would have to say it’s all about the desktop.
Hear me out before you groan and walk away.
Yes, I’ve been harping on this topic for decades, but I believe it will have a renewed relevance in the future. Why?
Understand, this is just speculation, but it’s speculation grounded in (at least) some level of reality.
Heads in the cloud; feet on the ground
Eventually, I believe the likes of Windows and macOS are going to evolve into cloud-first operating systems. I think both will take a few nods from Chrome OS to become dependent on Microsoft and Apple cloud services. Yes, they will still allow the installation of regular desktop software … at least in the beginning. But eventually, I believe those OSes will evolve into Microsoft’s and Apple’s versions of Google’s popular ecosystem.
And why wouldn’t they? Operating systems aren’t the cash cow they once were. In place of the OS (within the company bottom line) is Software as a Service (SaaS), and Google is the reigning champ of that space. Not content to sit idly by while Google continues to rule a very important business sector, Microsoft and Apple will eventually make a run at that crown.
SEE: My life with Linux: A retrospective (TechRepublic)
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All the while, Linux will keep doing what it’s doing. And because the open-source operating system isn’t beholden to a company, it doesn’t need to placate shareholders or help bolster a paid service. Because of that, Linux can keep being Linux and continue evolving into one of the most user-friendly and usable operating systems on the planet.
And that’s exactly what I believe will happen. While Windows and macOS head for the clouds, Linux will keep its webbed feet on the ground and become something traditional computer users will depend on—a standard operating system that allows them to get their work done in the manner in which they’ve grown accustomed.
What about third-party software?
This is where it could get interesting. Should Windows and macOS make the final journey to the cloud, it will put third-party software in a position to have to follow suit. So we could possibly get the likes of Photoshop (and other industry-standard software) that runs completely within a web browser.
You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? That’s right, Linux would stand to benefit from this in ways never before possible. Imagine if every software title that would be run on Windows and macOS could be run on Linux, all from within a browser. No more having to use tools like Wine or beg companies (signing petition after petition) for a native port. It would all just work.
SEE: Linus Torvalds’ greatest hits: A retrospective of the Linux kernel founder’s impact on technology (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
At that point, end-users would have no reason to not use Linux. In fact, if both Windows and macOS do make a break for the cloud, Linux would be the only option users would have for a traditional operating system.
Sounds like IT science fiction, or maybe the fevered dreams of a long-time Linux advocate. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that, over the next 30 years, proprietary operating systems will continue to keep their sights set on the cloud. I don’t believe it’s that much of a stretch of the imagination to think this possibility will become reality.
Say what you will about Linux, but this has always been an operating system filled with possibility. And as the companies pulling the strings of proprietary platforms make certain changes to improve their bottom line, Linux developers will keep plugging away and doing what they do best … delivering what users need to get their work done.
Here’s to 30 more wonderful years, Linux. As I’ve said before, it’s the operating system that changed my life. I would imagine those changes will continue on in a similar, spectacular fashion.
This is part four of a four-part series on Linux’s 30th anniversary. See parts one, two and three of this series. The entire series is available in this free PDF download.
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— Update: 19-03-2023 — us.suanoncolosence.com found an additional article Future Of Linux Operating Systems On Desktop Computers from the website www.linuxandubuntu.com for the keyword what is the future of linux.
Linux operating systems have dominated all aspects of the computing operating systems but one. From servers to supercomputers and even on mobile and embedded devices with Android, Linux is either the only choice or the most popular amongst them. But when it comes to the desktop, Linux has not been able to dominate although it has become quite an important player in this space. Linux on the desktop continues to gain popularity but how far can it go? Join me as I look at the future of Linux on the desktop.
The future of desktop Linux
I believe this question can be looked at in two different ways. The first being how desktop Linux is going to look in the future. The second question is whether or not it is going to gain much traction than it has enjoyed in the past. Will it gain any decent share of the desktop market or even topple Microsoft Windows? Can it even overtake MacOS? Is the year of the desktop something that is never going to happen?
What will Linux look like on the desktop?
In the early days of desktop Linux, much of the appearance was made to resemble Windows. GNOME, KDE, and the other desktop environments all came with a desktop that consisted of a panel (taskbar) and a Start Menu. Even the applications mimicked Windows I think in an attempt to bring familiarity to the masses. But now things are evolving, Linux desktops are rethinking the desktop experience to improve the user experience. Desktop environments such as Budgie, Pantheon and GNOME 3 are gaining popularity.
Debian with Gnome Desktop And yet still, the traditional DEs such as Cinnamon and MATE are just as popular still. With the growing popularity of mobile operating systems, others have tried and failed in an attempt to bring a mobile experience to the desktop.
Linux Mint with MATE Desktop Canonical’s vision of a unified mobile and desktop experience has been virtually discontinued after some years of pushing. The other major project that tried to bring a mobile experience to the desktop was Jide’s Remix OS which has also been shelved. So what is the future of the Linux desktop in terms of looks? One thing I know is that contrary to popular believe, looks do not matter to most people. Most people just want something intuitive that just works. I love that Linux has so many options but I hope there would be something common for newbies to go to and set the other DEs for intermediates and expert users so that newbies can easily transition into the Linux world.
The future of Linux Apps and Games, Flatpacks, Snaps or a mess?
One of the weaknesses about Linux has been the lack of some rather essential software. This has prevented many people and enterprises from switching to Linux regardless of the benefits that they do bring. Even amongst the Linux community, getting some applications to run on even some popular distros have required some technicalities on the part of the user and this has made Linux not the easiest for new users. Flatpack and Snaps are gaining popularity and hopefully, they would become the first choice of developers in distributing software to Linux users. This next-generation technology for building and installing desktop applications has the power to revolutionize the Linux desktop ecosystem.
Will Linux be a real contender in the desktop space?
Regardless of the growth and popularity of mobile devices, general-purpose desktops are going to be around for the long haul. Yes, not everyone is going to need them as most people just consume content such as browsing, video, and gaming, but I see this as an opportunity for Linux on the desktop. I believe a lightweight distro for content consumption has a good chance of flourishing in the desktop space. With a shift towards the cloud and the continued development of HTML5, a device that can handle this in a simple manner and can still use native applications without the bloat and complexity of current general-purpose operating systems will hit a sweet spot for the next generation computer users.I believe Google’s Chrome OS (Chromium OS) is currently Linux’s best shot at making any significant impact on the desktop space. Google’s Chromebooks are gaining popularity because they are dirt cheap, easy to manage and easier to use and if Linux desktop focused on this segment, there would be a chance of making a great impact.
To wrap up, I don’t know what the future of Linux on the desktop. Maybe there is a chance for Linux to dominate the desktop. If history has shown us anything, it is that nothing lasts forever.
The landscape is changing, maybe the desktop as we know it will shrink into an enterprise need and the mobile and cloud will dominate amongst consumers. Maybe it is going to require a significant development from the Linux community or a major mishap from the current leaders, either way, the Linux desktop is in a good place now with the state of the desktop environments and the direction of applications. Linux on the desktop should aim at the next bend of Chromebook-like systems that are just so easy to use. The battle has been long and hard, and it does not look like it is going to improve anytime soon for Linux, but it can only get better. Even if Linux never rules the general-purpose consumer desktop, it will dominate in the specialist environment. The future of Linux on the desktop is still bright.