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Red Hat chairman Bob Young: Why Linux won’t fork

Mar 31, 2000 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Although the topic forking has recently received more than its fair share of coverage, Red Hat chairman Bob Young throws some interesting fuel into the fire. This article discussing Young's views on the issue appears at, a Red Hat sponsored news site . . .

“Will Linux fork? Journalists have been asking the question of late. The question is legitimate: Unix forked in nasty ways that hurt the whole Unix community and the whole Unix industry.”

“But that was then, this is now, says Red Hat chairman Bob Young. Many reasons for Unix forking don't apply today. Hardware has become a commodity, and software rules. No one developing, using or selling Linux has an incentive to fork, Young says. Not only would the community suffer — the forker would suffer, too. It's self-interested human nature, not simple magnanimity, that keeps Linux from fragmenting. He explains:

“Open source projects don't fragment. It seems simply obvious that any software project where everyone is given the source code to the software, and is given a license that gives them the right to do whatever they want to with that software, is going to produce an infinite number of versions of that software.”

“Fragmenting. The term fragmenting, also known as forking, refers to the process where a single software project will split and that two or more development teams will start to build increasingly varied versions of the original software tool.”

” . . . The Linux kernel hasn't fragmented. In any case, the likelihood of open source software projects fragmenting seems so obvious that it has been the single most asked question in the seven years I've been in the open source software business. But yet it just does not happen. Back in 1995 we used to answer this question of Will the Linux-based OSs fork? with the response, “Well they haven't yet.” But not surprisingly that didn't satisfy many questioners. So we started to study why, after an increasing number of years, without any form of central control, the open source projects on which engineering teams like Red Hat's relied to build our OSs simply had not fragmented in any material way. Not once.”

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