Linux is a family of operating systems built with the free-and-open-source Linux operating system kernel.
The term Linux refers to two things:
- An operating system kernel developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991.
- Any operating system built with the Linux kernel.
The birth of Linux was announced on Usenet in 1991. Linus Torvalds developed the original Linux kernel for personal use with input from other members of the Usenet community and made it freely available in September of 1991. Today, Linux operating systems are installed on more computers and devices than any other family of operating systems.
The Linux kernel has been used to build a wide range of operating systems for every conceivable computerized device including wearables, smartphones, tablets, personal computers, servers, and supercomputers. A few of the most popular Linux operating systems include:
- Android & Chrome OS: Android, the most popular smartphone and tablet operating system, as well as Chrome OS, a close-cousin of Android and the OS behind Chromebooks, were both based on the Linux kernel and built by Google .
- Ubuntu: This popular Linux distribution, or distro, is based on another popular distro, Debian. Ubuntu is free, and a popular choice as a desktop operating system for technology enthusiasts, and as a web server operating system.
- CentOS: This operating system is most at home on a shared web server. If you have a shared hosting account, its likely that the server hosting your website is running CentOS.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are Linux and Unix related?
Unix was an operating system developed by AT&T in the 1970s. Unix was licensed to a number of vendors, and several modern operating systems including Apple OS X are derived from Unix.
Operating systems that are similar to Unix, but are not a direct derivative of Unix are said to be Unix-like. Linux is not a Unix operating system. It does not share a single line of code with Unix. However, Linux is often said to be Unix-like because it is built using the same basic architecture and logic as the Unix operating system.
In other words, while Linux is not officially a Unix operating system, it operates much in the same way as a Unix operating system, and has even been mentioned by one of the original Unix developers as one of best direct derivatives of Unix.
Where does the name Linux come from?
Linus Torvalds, the original developer of Linux, originally planned to name the operating system Freax as a combination of free, free, and x (as a reference to Unix). Torvalds actually considered but rejected the name Linux as too egotistical. However, once collaborators who didn't care for the name Freux got involved in the project, the operating system files were uploaded to an FTP server and the directory name changed from “Freax” to “Linux” without Torvalds approval. While initially reluctant to accept the change, Torvalds eventually relented and allowed the community of developers to rename the project Linux.