The Linux Foundation's annual LinuxCon North America event kicks off this week, and its primary focus this year is the 20th anniversary of the free and open source operating system.

It was August of 1991 when 20 year old Linus Torvalds first created Linux with only the most modest of ambitions. "Just a hobby, won't be anything big and professional like GNU," Torvalds wrote in what's become the kernel's famous introductory email. "It probably will never support anything other than AT-hard disks, as that's all I have."

It didn't take long for developers around the globe to become excited and get involved in the new operating system however, and the rest is history. Version 3.0 of the Linux kernel just recently made its debut, and companies around the world now rely heavily on the operating system.

A Linux-Based world

Seventy five percent of stock exchanges worldwide now run Linux, in fact, as do the servers that power Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Google, to name just a few. Ninety five percent of supercomputers run Linux too, as do a variety of automated teller machines and other critical devices.

Then of course there's Ubuntu, which is bringing Linux to more desktops than ever before. And let's not forget the little matter of Android, which has put Linux at the very heart of the mobile arena.

Bottom line: Linux is now an indispensable part of our world, and consumers use it every day, whether they realise it or not.

Ubuntu in the lead

As part of its celebration of Linux's 20 year history, the Linux Foundation recently compiled an interesting set of statistics comparing the state of the operating system in its early days with where it stands now.

Part of the statistics included were collected through a survey sent to registered LinuxCon participants.

Among the more interesting tidbits, I think, is that Ubuntu has come to account for the majority of the Linux distributions used, with 34 percent, whereas Fedora/Red Hat used to take first place with 45 percent, according to the Linux Foundation's survey results.

The FUD factor

Also telling is the fact that whereas Linux used to be used by most participants primarily at home, as opposed to work, school or not at all, today the majority use it everywhere, with the "all of the above" category claiming a full 48 percent. That's quite a testament.

FUD is still being used by Linux's competitors all the time. More marketing, I'd add, is one thing Linux needs next to gain even more ground.

In any case, as this video illustrates in further detail, it's mind-boggling to see how far Linux has come in 20 years. I can't wait to see the next 20 unfold.