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Linux kernel developers have tripled in number

Apr 1, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

The Linux Foundation (LF) has published a study on Linux mainline kernel development. According to LF, the number of Linux kernel developers has tripled since 2005, with many more companies contributing to the process (including, potentially, the latest new LF member, Adobe).

(Click for larger view of the Linux 2.6 development tree — stable releases are in green)

Pop quiz: of the following top five most prolific contributors to the Linux kernel over the last three years, who has contributed the greatest number of changes: Ralf Baechle, Adrian Bunk, David S. Miller, Andrew Morton, or Al Viro? (The answer is at the bottom of the page.)

One of the somewhat surprising findings of the LF study, titled “Linux Kernel Development: How Fast it is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing, and Who is Sponsoring It,” is that a fairly small percentage of contributors do the bulk of the work, says LF. The above contributors have each provided between 1.5- and 1.9 percent of the total number of kernel changes.

The number of changes per Linux kernel release has grown considerably
[Source: The Linux Foundation]

(Click to enlarge)

Another interesting finding is that between 70 and 95 percent of contributing developers are paid for their work. Indeed, Linux has become something of a corporate beast over the years, yet no single corporation comes close to dominating it. Or as the report puts it, Linux is “a common resource developed on a massive scale by companies who are fierce competitors in other areas.” It is still, says LF, “the largest distributed software development project in the world.”

The following are some other discoveries from the report:

  • Every Linux kernel is being developed by nearly 1,000 developers, working for more than 100 corporations.
  • An average of 3,621 lines of code are added to the kernel tree every day.
  • A new kernel is released approximately every 2.7 months.
  • Since 2005, the kernel has grown at a steady pace of 10 percent per year.

Adobe joins the act

On Monday, Adobe became the latest member of the non-profit Linux Foundation, which formed a little over a year ago when the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) merged with the Free Standards Group (FSG). The company joined to help collaborate on the advancement of Linux as a platform for rich Internet applications (RIA) and web 2.0 technologies, it said. Adobe has just released an alpha build of a Linux version of Adobe Air, a development tool supporting HTML, AJAX, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Flex.


The full text (and graphics) of the “Linux Kernel Development” study, which was written by kernel developers Jonathan Corbet and Greg Kroah-Hartman, as well as LF Director of Marketing Amanda McPherson, is available for free download here. Further analysis can be found in a Linux-Watch story, here.

And the most prolific of the Linux code warriors? That would be Al Viro, of course: 1,571 changes since 2005.

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