The Three Giants of Linux

In the land of Linux, there are three giants. Three distributions which have stood the test of time and from which most others have come. What makes these three unique and how have they shaped Linux as we know it today?

The Linux ecosystem is a complex entity. On one hand everyone gets along and benefits from work done by others, while on the other there’s often animosity and conflict between distributions and their communities (remember when Ubuntu came along?).

People often complain that there is simply too much choice in the Linux world and that we’d all be better off if there was just one, or two. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The multitude of Linux distributions exists for a reason. They exist because not one single distribution can satisfy the desires of every user on the planet. Different people like different ways of doing things. Not only that, the distribution that one might want to use for a server won’t necessarily suit a laptop. So thankfully there are thousands of distros to choose from.

In the Beginning

Of course it wasn’t always that way. GNU had a beginning, Linux had a beginning and so also the first distribution had a beginning.

That’s right, the first official distribution was called MCC Interim, back in February of 1992. It was the first distribution able to be installed on a computer, shipping the Linux kernel with a GNU user-land. Within that same year, a new (and popular at the time) distribution was created, called Softlanding Linux System (known simply as SLS), which in turn spawned Slackware, created by Patrick Volkerding. To this day, Slackware remains the oldest surviving Linux distribution.

By the time Slackware came onto the scene, there were already half a dozen Linux distributions. A few months later however, on August 16th 1993, one of the most important was about to emerge all on its own, which today takes the crown for the oldest surviving independently developed Linux distribution. Meet Debian. Debian was not a fork of any previous work, but an independent project in its own right, created by Ian Murdock. Entirely community driven, Debian remains the largest non-commercial distributor of Linux.

Almost one year after the birth of Debian, in 1994 the third and final member of the most influential distributions arrived on the scene, Red Hat Linux. This distribution was originally created by Marc Ewing but shortly thereafter merged with Bob Young’s company, ACC Corporation, creating Red Hat Software. From the very beginning, Red Hat Linux was designed with the corporate world in mind. It was and is a commercial implementation of a Linux distribution, built upon free software.


Together, these three distributions are the pillars of Linux, the giants. They have each lead the way, creating technologies and methodologies which we take for granted every day. They have forged the path to make Linux distributions what they are today.

Not only are they the three oldest surviving, they have each in turn spawned an entire range of operating systems. Certainly there have been other important independent distributions along the way such as Arch, Crux, Gentoo (from Enoch), Linux From Scratch, Puppy, ROCK, Tiny Core, Yoper and a great number of others. However, the following image of Lundqvist and Rodic’s GNU/Linux distro timeline illustrates just how influential these three distros have been.


According to DistroWatch, sixty-six distributions have been created from Slackware. Red Hat Linux has spawned around forty directly (with another eighty or so coming from Fedora), while grand daddy Debian makes it two hundred and fifty! At the end of the day, the majority of Linux distributions which exist today are at some point a derivative of one of these three.

These three distributions really couldn’t get much more different. Of course the core is the same in each; a Linux kernel, GNU user-land as well as various desktops and applications. Aside from the required similarities, how do these distributions differ? As you’ll see, each one encompasses a unique perspective, which shows just how important diversity is!

Slackware – The Dictatorship

In many ways, Slackware was and is a one man show. Patrick Volkerding created the distribution and he still controls it today. Certainly, he has a fantastic team surrounding him and a dedicated community behind him, but he is the one who calls the shots.

The distribution itself revolves around simplicity and tries to remain as Unix-like as possible. It does not heavily patch its packages, rather shipping products which resemble upstream as closely as possible. Slackware leaves the user in charge and gets out of the way. It traditionally doesn’t make heavy use of a package manager and while it can install, upgrade and remove packages, it does not track or manage dependencies. This task falls to the system administrator (or user), and is one of the most striking differences between Slackware and the other two.

For these reasons, it is often considered a “harder to use” distribution, but fans of the distribution see these as necessary tools of power and flexibility. Nevertheless, Slackware is well regarded among the community and very stable.

Recently it gained support for both 64bit and ARM architectures, but prior to this was heavily focused on 32bit only. It only supports one major desktop environment, KDE, although others such as GNOME are supported by the community.

While many other newer distributions are adding additional layers of complexity to make things easier, Slackware is staying true to its UNIX roots, offering a simple yet powerful, highly configurable system. For more insight into Slackware, take a look at our interview with developer Eric Hameleers.

Comments on "The Three Giants of Linux"

We stumbled over here from a diffrent web address and thouggt I may as well check things out.
I like whyat I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking at your web pqge again.

My blog post :: Cheap Car Insurance

What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this web site
daily, this website is actually good and the users are in fact sharing good thoughts.

Also visit my homepage: Cheap Car Insurance

I am truly pleased to glance at thi webpage posts which contains tons of valuable facts,
thanks forr providing these kinds of statistics.

Feel free to surf to my weblog car insurance cheap

I’m impressed, I have to admit.Rareoy do I encounter a blog that’s both equally
educative and entertaining, and ithout a doubt, you’ve hit
the nail on the head. The problem iis something whifh not enough meen annd women aree speaking intelligently about.
I am very happy I ound this in my search for something regarding this.

Feel free to surf too my web-site :: Cheap car insurance

Hi there, I want to subscribe for thgis websiote to take most recent
updates, so where can i do it please help.

My homepage: cheap car insurance michigan

I was curious if you evber considered changing the layyout of your blog?

Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe
you could a little more in the way of content soo people could
connect with iit better. Youve got an awful loot of text for only having one or 2 images.
Maybe you could space it out better?

Feel free tto surf to my web-site – cheap car insurance in ohio

Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d ike to follow you if that would be ok.
I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

Here is my web blog cheap car insurance

Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your
stuff previous too and you are just too magnificent. I really like wha you’ve acquired here, really like what youu arre saying and the way
in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still take care oof to keep it wise.

I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is really
a tremendous web site.

My wbpage cheap car insurance in florida

Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few
of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure
why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web
browsers and both show the same outcome.

Here is my blog post :: Cheap Car Insurance

Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before
but after browsing through some of the post I reaqlized it’s new to me.
Nonetheless, I’m efinitely delightred I found
it and I’ll bee book-marking and checking back frequently!

My web-site – cheap liability car insurance

Your mode of explaining all in this post is actually pleasant, every one be capable of
easily know it, Thanks a lot.

My web-site cheap car insurance

I take plsasure in, lead to I found exactly what I was having a look for.
You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless
you man. Have a nice day. Bye

Also visit my bloig Cheap car insurance

Thanks in support of sharing such a nice thinking, piece of writing is nice, thats why i
have resad it fully

Here is my blog; cheap car insurance in ga

Hey I am so delighted I found your blog page, I reaally
found you by error, while I was researching on Aol for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a
remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also lov the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all att the moment but I havve bookmarked
it and alsao added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I wull
be bazck to read more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

Feeel free to visit my weblog: cheap car insurance in sc

Great delivery. Sound arguments. Keep up the good spirit.

Feel fre to surf to mmy blog post: car insurance cheap

Simply wish too say your article is as amazing.
The clearness in your post is just cool and
i can assume you’re an expert onn this subject.
Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.

Thanks a million and pleaee contginue the gratifying work.

my weblog Cheap car insurance

Hello colleagues, its great paragraph regarding teachingand fully explained,
keep it up all thhe time.

Also visit my blog :: cheap car insurance

I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic.
I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
Thanks for magnificent information I was
looking for this info for my mission.

Also visit my web blog: Cheap car insurance

Feel free to surf to my page – http://Adalparedes.com/

Also visit my web blog … All-Manuals.Com

Yesterday, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it
can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views.
I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it
with someone!

Here is my web page … cheap car insurance

I simply want to say I am just all new to weblog and really enjoyed your website. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog post . You amazingly have beneficial articles and reviews. Thanks for revealing your blog site.

I couldn’t have asked for a much better blog. You happen to be ever present to provide excellent guidance, going straight away to the point for simple understanding of your site visitors. You’re really a terrific professional in this subject matter. Thanks for being there for people like me.

Generally I do not read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very nice article.

I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later. Many thanks

[url=http://canadianpharcharmyonlineusa.com/]canadian pharcharmy online[/url]
canadian pharcharmy online
http://canadianpharcharmyonlineusa.com/ canadian pharcharmy online

I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or
did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog
and would like to know where u got this from. thanks

This really answered my problem, thank you!

One more important issue is that if you are a senior, travel insurance pertaining to pensioners is something you should really take into account. The more aged you are, a lot more at risk you happen to be for getting something terrible happen to you while overseas. If you are not necessarily covered by many comprehensive insurance policy, you could have a number of serious challenges. Thanks for expressing your suggestions on this blog site.

Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information.
Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

That could be the finish of this write-up. Right here you will come across some web sites that we believe you will enjoy, just click the hyperlinks.

Although internet websites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we feel they may be basically worth a go through, so have a look.

Here are some hyperlinks to web sites that we link to mainly because we think they are really worth visiting.

Leave a Reply