As side projects go, few have succeeded quite as spectacularly as Linus Torvald’s attempt to create a new, free operating system. In 1991, he termed his project kernel “Freax,” a name soon eclipsed by another: “Linux.”

In the past twenty-five years, Linux has grown and grown (and grown), overcoming resistance and legal threats from Microsoft and other proprietary-software vendors. Between 2005 and 2015, more than 12,000 developers contributed to the Linux kernel, committing changes at a rate of 8 per second.

According to the Linux Foundation, 98 percent of the world’s supercomputers use Linux, and 8 out of 10 financial transactions are handled on Linux servers. That’s in addition to 1.3 million Android smartphones activated each day (Android is based on Linux). It’s even used on the International Space Station.

 

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