What is Linux?

You may have heard of Linux before. But even if you haven’t, you’ve almost certainly used it.

Linux is a free, open-source[1] operating system[2] created by Linus Torvalds, in 1991. Linux, the third most popular computer operating system, is used on only 1.82% of computers. Unlike Windows and macOS, which have only one version available at one time, there are many different variations or distributions of Linux available at once. These distributions (or distros for short) are developed by different corporations and communities and all have their own special features. The most commonly used distributions, Ubuntu and Linux Mint, are notable for being incredibly user-friendly, coming preinstalled with most programs necessary for everyday use, and supporting a large number of programs. There are also some other common appearances of Linux in technology that you might not expect. Android the smartphone operating system is actually based on Linux, as is the Chrome OS operating system that runs on Chromebooks. In fact, many devices besides computers run Linux or Linux-based operating systems, including DVRs. In this way, many people who haven’t even heard of Linux have actually used it before.

[1] Open-source software is software that has its source code made available to the public, and is often developed by a community of individuals who contribute to the project.

[2] An operating system is the software on a computer or other electronic device that allows its users to do things such as execute programs and store and create files. The most commonly used computer operating system is Microsoft’s Windows, with the next most common being Apple’s macOS.

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