What is Linux?

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  • Post last modified:November 13, 2023
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In this post, you’ll be able to learn what Linux is, where it comes from, and what you can do with it.

Released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux is an open-source computer operating system based on UNIX or UNIX-like. In contrast to Linux, UNIX is a proprietary operating system. Note the terms open-source and proprietary, which will explain in a moment.

What is an operating system?

An operating system is software that manages computer resources such as hardware (CPU, hard drives, RAM, etc.) and software.

There are many available operating systems, many found on many devices such as computers (e.g., Linux, Windows, macOS), cellphones (e.g., Android, iOS), tablets (e.g., Android, iPadOS), embedded devices, and more.

Companies such as Google, META, IBM, Amazon, and many more are known to run on Linux. However, big organizations are not the only ones benefitting from using Linux. Individuals can also take advantage of Linux in many ways, including security, auditable source code, low cost, and performance.

Linux Distributions

Linux is found in different variations, also known as distributions (or distros). Popular distributions include CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Mint, RHEL, and Ubuntu.

Some distributions can be managed from a command-line interface (CLI) or a graphical user interface (GUI).

These distributions vary depending on several factors. Some can include desktop environments (e.g., GNOME, KDE), while others are intended to be used as servers (and omit the graphics). They can also have different package managers, such as DPKG, SNAP, and APT.

What makes Linux different from other Operating Systems?

What we know as Linux today, is the result of the collaboration of what is known as free and open-source software (FOSS). With “free” referring to freedom and not price; In contrast with proprietary software, free and open-source software allows people to see, audit, edit, improve and distribute the source code.

The Linux community is big and diverse, and some terms could vary on how people refer to them. Such as with free and open-source software: While sometimes it might be referred to as free software (preferred by the Free Software Foundation), it might also be called open-source software (encouraged by the Open Source Initiative).


You have probably used Linux before without realizing it or might already be a Linux expert. Linux distributions can vary little or widely, from one another. Depending on what your objectives are, I believe the best way to learn more about them is for you to start trying different distributions and comparing how they vary from one another.

Image credits: @Lukash via Unsplash. 

Jose Ponce

Jose is a Linux enthusiast with more than 10 years of Linux experience. His passion for Linux and other Free and Open-Source Software led him to start moreaboutlinux.com. On his free time, he enjoys reading books and drinking coffee.