GPLv2 and other free and open-source licenses, except for the "Linux" trademark[a]
Linux or GNU/Linux is a Unix-likeoperating system for computers. An operating system is a collection of the basic instructions that manage the electronic parts of the computer allowing running application programs. Linux is free software. Free software means that everyone has the freedom to use it, see how it works, change it or share it.
There is a lot of software for Linux and—like Linux itself—a lot of the software for Linux is free software. This is one reason why many people like to use Linux.
The development of Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free and open-source software collaboration. The underlying source code may be used, modified, and distributed—commercially or non-commercially—by anyone under the GNU General Public License version 2 (and some software components under other licenes). Typically, Linux is packaged in a form known as a Linux distribution, for both desktop and server use. Some of the popular mainstream Linux distributions are Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch Linux and Gentoo, together with commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server distributions. Linux distributions include the Linux kernel, supporting utilities and libraries, and usually a large amount of application software to fulfill the distribution's intended use.
Distributions oriented toward desktop use typically include X11, a Wayland implementation, or Mir as the windowing system, and an accompanying desktop environment such as GNOME or the KDE Software Compilation; some distributions may also include a less resource-intensive desktop such as LXDE or Xfce. Distributions intended to run on servers may omit all graphical environments from the standard install, and instead include other software to set up and operate a solution stack such as LAMP. Because Linux is freely redistributable, anyone may create a distribution for any intended use.
In the 1980s, many people liked to use an operating system called Unix. But because it restricted the user from sharing and improving the system, some people made a new operating system that would work like Unix but which anybody could share or improve. MINIX, similar to Unix, was used as a teaching tool for university students to learn how operating systems worked. MINIX also restricted its sharing and improvement by its users.
A group of people called the GNU Project wrote different parts of a new operating system called GNU, but it did not have all the parts an operating system needs to work. In 1991 Linus Torvalds began to work on a replacement for MINIX that would be free to use, and which would not cost anything. Linus started the project when he was attending the
University of Helsinki. This eventually became the Linux kernel.
Linus Torvalds shared the Linux kernel on some internet groups for MINIX users. Linus first called the operating system "Freax". The name Freax came from joining up the English words "free" and "freak", and adding an X to the name because Unix has an X in its name. Ari Lemmke, who worked with Linus at the University, was responsible for the servers that Freax was stored on. Ari did not think Freax was a good name, so he called the project "Linux" without asking Linus. Later, Linus agreed that Linux was a better name for his project.
Linux relied on software code from MINIX at first. But, with code from the GNU system available for free, he decided it would be good for Linux if it could use that code, instead of code from MINIX, because MINIX did not let people share or change it how they wanted. The GNU General Public License is a software license that lets people change any part of the code they want to, as long as they share any changes they make with the people they give their software to and allow them to redistribute it for free or for a price . The software from GNU was all licensed under the GNU General Public License, so Linus and the other people who worked on Linux could use it too.
To make the Linux kernel suitable for use with the code from the GNU Project, Linus Torvalds started a switch from his original license (which did not allow people to sell it) to the GNU GPL. Linux and GNU developers worked together to integrate GNU code with Linux to make a free operating system.