LWN.net is almost five years old. As a sort of premature celebration, we
have taken a look at five years worth of Linux reporting and picked out a
small number of truly interesting occurrences. Enjoy, and come back in
five years for the next installment...
See also the change log to see what has been
added in later versions of the timeline.
The LWN.net five-year timeline was produced by Rebecca Sobol with input
across the net.
Thanks to the following who have helped to make the five-year timeline more
The Linux Weekly News begins publication. The very first issue, dated January 22, was a
just a tiny hint of what LWN was to become. The LWN Daily updates began in April 1998. Things have
changed since then, with Linux and LWN. It has been an interesting
The Linux user community wins InfoWorld's technical support award;
(February) Red Hat 5.0 also won their Operating System award. But it was
the tech support award that truly opened some eyes; everybody had been
saying that Linux had no support. This was the beginning of the end of the
"no support" argument.
I think it's great if you are willing to promote Linux to your
boss. As long as you are aware of the risk you are taking. The risk
of getting fired. (Feb.
Is a Linux takeover likely? Give me a break. Of course not. (June
I personally think Windows NT will be the mainstream operating
system within a few years. [...] My belief: Linux will never go
I've always said that Linux could become a serious challenger to
Microsoft's Windows NT. (Sep.
-- Linux according to Jesse Berst
Eric Raymond and friends come up with the "open source" term.
(February) They apply for trademark status, and put up the opensource.org web site. Thus begins
the formal effort to push Linux for corporate use.
Linus announces Linux 2.1.92 and declares a 2.1 feature freeze.
(April) The announcment goes
as far as to say "...there are probably still bugs with some of the new
code, but I'll freeze new features for the upcoming 2.2 kernel." This
freeze turned out to be rather slushy, to say the least.
Linus 3.0 is announced; (April) the birth of Linus's second daughter
causes great joy, and substantial disruption in kernel development as all
work stops and many patches get lost. Some grumbling results as it becomes
clear just how dependent the entire process is on Linus's continual presence.
Kernel 2.1.115 is released; Linus calls a code freeze, (August) for
real, this time. Sort of.
The first pre-2.2 kernel is released. (December)
The Linux-based "Google" search engine pops up. (May)
The first release of the Mandrake distribution is announced. (July)
Mandrake started out as a
version of the Red Hat distribution with international language support and
The Gartner Group says there is little hope for free software.
(June) "...these operating systems will not find widespread use in
mainstream commercial applications in the next three years, nor will there
be broad third-party application support."
A report from IDC says that Linux shipments rose by more than 200% in
1998, and its market share rose by more than 150%. (December) Linux
has a 17% market share, and a growth rate unmatched by any other system on
The LWN Penguin Gallery is launched in October. It remains a
popular LWN feature.
Linuxcare rolls out its service offerings, becoming a high-profile
Linux company almost overnight.
Linux DVD devlopers crack the DVD encryption scheme in November.
They succeed in demonstrating (1) that the DVD scheme is poor, and (2) that
closed-source cryptography is almost always a mistake.
Once widely denigrated by commercial developers as chaotic
programming by committee, open source is now expected to come into
its own this year as a business model, with potentially
far-reaching consequences for developers and consumers of computer
Amy Harmon, New York Times.
The Microsoft funded Mindcraft study is released in April and rerun
in June. NT wins; Linux gets several bugs identified and fixed. Here is
The Linux Kernel in 1999
- In January Linus Torvalds complains that he is not getting ISDN
patches, and threatens to put out 2.2 without them.
- (January 25) Kernel 2.2.0 is released after more than two years of
- (May 12) Kernel 2.2.8 comes out, along with the 2.3.0 development
- (August 3) Linus calls for a 2.3 feature freeze in two weeks. It
ends up taking rather longer than that...
- (August 13) Stable kernel 2.2.11 is released, and Linus hands off
the 2.2 kernel entirely to Alan Cox.
- (September 23) The first ext3 patch is released, making journaling
filesystems for Linux a reality.
- In December Linus complains that he is not getting ISDN patches,
and threatens to put out 2.4 without them.
Fortunately for Microsoft, however, there are only so many
developers in the world willing to devote their talents to writing,
testing, and debugging software pro bono publico.... It is unlikely
... that a sufficient number of open-source developers will commit
to developing and continually updating the large variety of
applications that an operating system would need to attract in
order to present a significant number of users with a viable
alternative to Windows.
-- Judge Jackson's
findings of fact, from the Microsoft trial
Software in the Public Interest becomes a non-profit organization.
Microsoft is found to be a monopoly in U.S. District Court. The findings of
fact show little faith in the ability of Linux to present a challenge
The first LinuxWorld Conference and Expo is held in San Jose. As
the first big commercial "trade show" event for Linux, it serves notice to
the world that Linux has arrived. 12,000 people are said to have attended.
(LWN coverage here).
VA Research, soon to be VA Linux systems, now VA Software, buys
the Linux.com domain in March, for $1,000,000. Microsoft's rumored bid
for the domain is frustrated. The site goes live in May.
Romancing the Stock Market, or Linux and the Initial Public Offering
- Red Hat files for its IPO in June. The IPO happens in August and
the stock price immediately rises to $50. By September stock in Red
Hat hits $135/share. Red Hat stock splits in December.
- Shares in Applix more than double on volume in September, reaching
nearly 27 million shares - three times the 9 million shares that are
actually on the market.
- Cobalt Networks files for its IPO in September; goes public in
November. The stock immediately begins trading at $130/share, almost
six times its offering price ($22/share).
- An unknown company called LinuxOne also files for an IPO in
- Andover.net acquires Slashdot in June and Freshmeat in August.
The company files for files for its IPO in September, goes public in
December at $18/share, closes over $60.
- VA Linux Systems files in October. In November the share price is
set at $11-13/share. VA goes public the day after Andover.net, after
two repricings. The final IPO price is $30/share; that price rises
immediately to $300, before closing around $250. It sets the record
for the biggest IPO rise in the history of the NASDAQ.
- Linux fever strikes many other stocks, including some that are
peripherally related to Linux, if at all.
Linux survives the year-2000 bug in fine form, along with the rest
of the world.
VA Linux Systems announces SourceForge in January, along with its
intention to acquire Andover.net. The acquisition is completed in June.
The DVD case takes an ugly turn with the questioning of Jon
Johansen, the 16-year-old Norwegian hacker who first posted the DeCSS
code. The Global Internet Liberty Campaign publishes this Member Statement on the
LWN is acquired by
Tucows.com in April.
Caldera Systems files for its initial public offering in January,
the first for 2000. Soon after Caldera receives $30 million in venture
capital. The company goes public on March 21. The stock, which was
offered at $14/share began trading at $26 and closed at $29.44. It thus
registered a 110% gain on its first day. Reports that SCO may be
purchased by Caldera are circulating by July followed by an official announcement in August.
Linuxcare files for its IPO on the heels of Caldera. Nothing else is
heard about it until March, when the company submits a new S-1 (IPO)
filing. Then in May Linuxcare lays off a substantial portion of its
workforce and officially withdraws its IPO filing.
The LWN.net Linux Stock Index peaks at 199 on January 10, 2000. At
year end the index falls into the 30's mirroring the overall plunge in
IBM makes code available: to its Journaled
File System (JFS) in February. IBM's port of Linux to the S/390
also becomes available for download for the first time in February.
In July IBM announces plans to spend $200 million over four years to
make it easier for European companies to bring its software to Linux.
IBM's Linux-powered wristwatch is announced on August 7, 2000,
drawing a great deal of attention.
IBM announces plans to invest $1 billion in Linux in 2001 in
The Linux Standard Base (LSB) and Linux Internationalization Initiative
(LI18NUX) announce that they have incorporated as the Free Standards Group (May) the
first LI18NUX2000 Globalization Specification is released in August.
David Wheeler released the paper now titled Why Open Source Software /
Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers! under the original
title Quantitative Measures for Why You Should Consider Open Source
Software / Free Software?
Normally, when you integrate almost 5MB of patches, bad things
happen. This time, a miracle occurred. As I uploaded the resultant
kernel, a specter of the holy penguin appeared before me, and said
"It is Good. It is Bugfree".
As if wanting to re-assure me that yes, it really =was= the holy
penguin, it finally added "Do you have any Herring?" before fading
out in a puff of holy penguin-smoke. Only a faint whiff of rancid
fish remains as I type in these words..
In short, not only are most of Alan's patches integrated, I have it
on higher authority that the result is perfect.
So if it doesn't compile for you, you must be doing something
-- Linus Torvalds' announcement of the 2.4.0-test2
The kernel.org FTP/web site and its mirrors begin hosting cryptographic
software which is seen as a significant next step towards including
cryptographic code in the Linux kernel. This policy is the result of the
recent change (effective January 14) in U.S. export regulations.
In May the point that 2.4 remains a distant goal is reinforced when
Alexander Viro posts a list
of changes which will go into the 2.3 directory cache with a
warning to anybody who maintains a filesystem that is not part of the
standard kernel tree: talk to him soon or watch your code break.
Ted Ts'o steps forward
to become the new 2.4 status list maintainer in July.
September, Linus Torvalds declares that there are no major known
bugs in the 2.4.0-test kernel series. He decrees that only patches
which fix a critical problem will be accepted. "So when you send me
a patch, either bug Ted to mark the issue as 'critical' first, or pay me
money. It's that easy." Some hackers decide that bribing TODO list maintainer
Ted Ts'o with exotic liquor is a better way to go.
The fact that I've held on to 2.4.x for too long, mostly due to
the VM problems, really doesn't help. That just makes me _less_
likely to be careful. Especially when the last known VM problem
was fixed (ie the Oracle highmem deadlock), I had a very strong
urge to just "get the d*mn thing out to Marcelo".
-- Linus on the
The Linux Kernel in 2001
- The long-awaited 2.4.0 kernel is released on January 4. (announcement).
- Linus merges ReiserFS into 2.4.1, despite a statement that only
serious bug fixes will be accepted.
- Linus says that the 2.5 kernel will open up "in a week or two" (June posting).
- Stable kernel 2.4.10 is released in September, with a completely
new virtual memory implementation. Much complaining follows, but the
new code stabilizes quickly.
- Marcelo Tosatti is named as the maintainer of the 2.4 kernel in
November, just prior to the 2.5.0 release.
- The 2.5.0 kernel is released, complete with a filesystem
corruption bug (which also affects 2.4.15).
This is completely unprecedented. A company launching and
aggressive marketing campaign for a product that it has no claim
over and for which it cannot obtain even one cent in direct
-- IT-Director on
IBM's "Peace, Love, and Linux" ad campaign takes off in March and by
April the company is in trouble over its "Peace, Love, and Linux" graffiti
in several cities.
There are over 2300 commercial Linux applications, according to a
press release from IBM.
The Caldera/SCO deal completes in May leaving Caldera the owner of
UnixWare and OpenServer.
Sony's Playstation Linux kit sells out in eight minutes depite a
doubling of the available stock.
Linux contains over $1 billion worth of software according to this
June study by David A. Wheeler.
The GNU Compiler Collection (gcc) 3.0 is released (announcement).
VA Linux Systems exits the hardware business, choosing to
concentrate on SourceForge instead (announcement).
The company also lays off 150 people.
The Linux Standard Base specification v1.0 is released (July announcement).
The one-billionth second since the beginning of the Unix epoch
passes on September 9.
- July: Dmitry Sklyarov is arrested in Las Vegas after Adobe
complains about the Advanced eBook Processor.
- Adobe backs down and calls for Dmitry Sklyarov to be free.
Too little, too late.
- August: Dmitry Sklyarov is released on bail, but confined
to northern California.
- September: Dmitry Sklyarov is charged with DMCA violations and
conspiracy; the potential penalties add up to 25 years in prison;
he pleads "not guilty".
Yet Mr. Sklyarov still languishes in jail, puzzled, no doubt,
about how a free society can jail someone for writing code that
was legal where written, just because he comes to the United
States and gives a report on encryption weaknesses.
Lessig in the New York Times.
- October: The 2.2.20 changelog is censored due to Alan Cox's
fear of DMCA problems if he documents security fixes (changelog).
- November: Dmitry Sklyarov announces a defense based on
constitutional challenges to the DMCA, based on free speech and
- December: Charges against Dmitry Sklyarov are dropped
conditional on one year of good behavior and testimony in the ElcomSoft
DoJ press release).
Co-founder Liz Coolbaugh goes on medical leave in August and
senior editor Michael Hammel leaves in October due to LWN's
financial difficulties. We still miss them both.
Too often, though, programmers, system administrators and other IT
pros become understandably outraged by the latest attempts to
restrict technology--and react by doing precisely the wrong
thing. They set up irate Web sites, launch online petition drives and
tell all their friends to write to their congressional
Here's the bitter truth: These efforts are mostly a waste of
time. Sure, they may make you feel better, but they're not the way to
Instead, technologists should be doing what comes naturally:
inventing technology that outpaces the law and could even make new
News.com's Declan McCullagh on how to be an activist.
Free software and hackers vs "The Law", a brief summary.
- Jon Johansen is indicted in Norway for his role in creating
and posting the DeCSS code in January. The trial begins in December.
No decision has been made as of this writing.
- The "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion
Act," otherwise known as "Consume, But Don't Try Programming
Anything." U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings submits the CBDTPA in March.
The bill would, for all practical purposes, make free software illegal.
- The ElcomSoft trial or the continuing adventures of Dmitry
Sklyarov. An attempt to get the ElcomSoft trial dismissed fails in
April after the U.S. court decides that it does, indeed, have
jurisdiction over the case. In May a constitutional attack on the DMCA
fails; presiding Judge Whyte argues that a ban on circumvention devices
is constitutional, even if those devices have legal uses. The November
trial date is delayed when U.S. immigration refuses to allow the
defendants into the country. The trial finally happens
in December. The jury returns a "not guilty" verdict for
Elcomsoft, on the grounds that the Russian firm was unaware that its
software was illegal.
The Linux Standard Base v1.1 is released in January, along with v1.0
of the Li18nux internationalization standard. Version 1.2 of the Linux
Standard Base is released in June.
Disney buys a bunch of Linux systems from HP, despite the fact that
the Disney-backed CBDTPA would make Linux illegal (HP
The "largest and most powerful Linux supercomputer" is sold to Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory by Linux NetworX (announcement).
No one could have possibly arranged for more publicity for the open
source movement and its importance than Bill Gates coming and
giving $400 million to fight Linux.
Chitnis, Linux Bangalore/2002 organizer
Eric Raymond leaks another "Halloween document".
Halloween VII suggests that FUD attacks have failed; the future
lies in patent and "total cost of ownership" attacks.
Linux Bangalore/2002 is endorsed by the Indian government, despite a
recent visit by Bill Gates attempting to head off Indian adoption of free
Oracle begins its "unbreakable Linux" campaign in June, and releases
its clustered filesystem for Linux under the GPL in August.
The Linux Kernel
How do I put it. I'm the last straggler coming back from the hunt, and
I've got what looks like it might be a wooly mammoth on my shoulders,
and my tribesmen are complaining that I'm late for dinner. How about
helping me by cutting down a tree for the roasting spit instead? Think
thoughts of the poor hungry Microsoft tribe eating NTFS.
Reiser submits Reiser4.
- Linus Torvalds breaks the 2.5.2 kernel with a new kdev_t
type, thus beginning the 2.5 development series in earnest (Linus's posting).
- Linus starts experimenting with BitKeeper as a way
of managing kernel changes. By most (but not all) accounts, the
experiment is a success.
- The 2.5 kernel feature freeze goes into effect
(mostly) as planned on October 31.
- The 2.4.19 stable kernel is released after a very long
development cycle (August announcement) and
stable kernel 2.4.20 is released in November. (announcement)
LWN.net is unacquired and becomes, once again, an independent
organization in January. The new LWN.net site launches to decidedly
mixed reviews in June. Unable to sell advertising, LWN.net announces it
will shut down on August 1 (announcement + 127 comments),
barring a miracle. Miracles happen, LWN.net does not shut down
after our readers come through with an amazing pile of donations. Instead,
a new subscription scheme is hatched. Of course, due to merchant account
troubles, we don't actually get most of those donations for almost
two months. By year-end LWN.net is (barely) sustaining itself on
The Creative Commons Project launches with several licenses aimed at
helping creators make their work freely available (web site).
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