To better understand the popularity of the Linux operating system among developers, let’s take a moment to talk more about open-source software and its ideals. Open-source software is software with source code that anybody can look at or contribute to and distribute based on the terms of the license. It grew out of the Free Software Movement which guarantees certain freedoms to software users. The two movements overlap significantly and the terms are often used interchangeably, but they are respectively defined by the non-profit organizations, Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation.

The Free Software Foundation first published the GNU Public License (GPL) in 1989. The GPL is a copyleft (as opposed to copyright) license, which means that any derivative software must be distributed under the same or equivalent license terms. Linus Torvalds released the Linux operating system under GPL license in 1992. This non-proprietary way of sharing code has since been described as a “defining factor of Linux’s success” as more and more developers began to contribute to the project. Over time, a rich Linux eco-system with different versions (called distributions ) of the operating system and many open-source applications has developed.

In the next few exercises, we’ll learn some of the key differences between Linux distributions.

If you’d like to learn more about open source, we have a blog post dedicated to it.


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