Linux isn’t a product. Linux is an organic part of a software ecosystem.
—Michael Robinson, Netrinsics
To the casual observer (and some corporate IT decision makers), Linux appears to be a freak mutation — a rogue creature randomly generated by anarchy. How, after all, can something so complex and discipline dependent as a computer operating system be developed by a loosely knit band of volunteer computer geeks from around the world?
Just as science is constantly attempting to classify and explain everything in existence, technology commentators are still trying to understand how the open source approach can create superior software, especially in cases where there is no charge. Often the reasons have much to do with the usual human desire to fill a need with a solution. When a programmer in the Linux world wants a tool, the programmer simply writes one — or bands together with other people who want a similar package, and they write it together.
Imagine — software created out of need rather than projected profit. Even though UNIX ultimately became expensive proprietary software, the ideas and motives for its creation were originally based on practical needs. What people usually refer to (in the singular) as the Linux operating system is actually a collection of software tools that were created with the express purpose of solving specific computing problems.
The speed of Linux’s popularity also wouldn’t be possible without the ...