Linux Turns 25 Years Old

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In late August, Linux turned 25 years old, a major milestone for any piece of software. But unlike most other platforms that have made the quarter-century mark, the operating system isn’t on the wane, reduced to running on a few university computers or enterprise databases. On many fronts, the kernel created by Linus Torvalds has grown to swallow a significant portion of the technology world.

Despite the running joke among technologists about how any given year will surely be the “year of the Linux desktop” (which never seems to happen), Linux has found its way into everything from servers and datacenters to embedded systems such as smartwatches. (You could even argue that the vision of a near-ubiquitous Linux laptop might yet become reality, provided Google’s Chrome OS—which is based on the kernel—continues to gain market-share.)

But who’s actually working to keep Linux evolving? According to this year’s edition of the Linux Kernel Development report, produced by the Linux Foundation (registration and download required), the operating system’s rate of development is on the rise, driven in equal parts by individual developers and companies. That community adds an average of 11 files and 4,600 lines of code to the platform every day:

Linux Kernel

While thousands of developers have contributed something over the past several years, there are a handful of “power contributors” who have added a significant percentage of code. For example, since the platform’s 2.6.11 release, the top 10 developers have contributed some 7.5 percent of total changes, while the top 30 developers were responsible for 16 percent.

Among companies, the most active contributors have included (in descending order) Intel, Red Hat, Linaro, Samsung, SUSE, IBM, and various corporate consultants. Google, AMD, and Texas Instruments also ranked in the top 15.

“Interestingly, the volume of contributions from unpaid developers has been in slow decline for many years,” the report added. “It was 14.6 percent in the 2012 version of this paper, 13.6 percent in 2013, and 11.8 percent in 2014.” Given how kernel developers are in short supply, “anybody who demonstrates an ability to get code into the mainline tends not to have trouble finding job offers.”

That’s good news for anyone with Linux skills who’s looking for gainful employment. In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more about Linux development—especially the key lessons learned from its rise to prominence—check out the report.