Torvalds: Linux ‘built on trusted relationships’

Linux development is more like a social network built on trusted relationships and less like a democratic community of individuals dedicated to a single development process, according to its creator Linus Torvalds.

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Linux development is more like a social network built on trusted relationships and less like a democratic community of individuals dedicated to a single development process, according to its creator Linus Torvalds.

"I have a policy that he who does the code gets to decide," said Torvalds, the Linux project coordinator who has written approximately 2% of the Linux code since creating the operating system in 1990.

Torvalds made his comments during the first of a two-part interview with Jim Zemlin, chief executive at the Linux Foundation. Torvalds is a Fellow at the foundation, which funds his work. He can be heard in his own words via podcast on the Linux Foundation website.

Torvalds also said GPLv2 remained his open source licence of choice for the Linux kernel and that he would be pragmatic on future decisions, but that stance would not blind him to investigating the General Public Licence version 3 under specific circumstances. He said trust is the fuel that is energising the Linux development process and commercial vendors can only establish that trust via actions not words.

The mythical "Linux community" did not refer to one big happy open source family, he said, but the development process was made up of many groups, some with different ideals and goals.

He said companies and individuals have to build trust. "What happens is people know. They've seen other people do work over the last months or years, in some cases decades, and they know that, 'OK, I can trust this person. When he sends me a patch, it's probably the right thing to do even if I don't understand quite why' and you kind of build up this network."

In terms of licensing, which has been a hot topic since the GPLv3 was introduced last year, Torvalds said he would remain pragmatic. GPLv3 and GPLv2 pointed to the philosophical differences between open source and Linux on one side and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) on the other.

"One of the few reasons I see why Version 3 might be useful is simply there ends up being tons of external code that we feel is really important and worthwhile that is under the Version 3 licence," Torvalds said.

Torvalds said Linux participation remained largely in western Europe and the US, and the only factors excluding others from participation were connectivity, language and cultural barriers.

He expected embedded and mobile devices to have the greatest impact on Linux in the near future, and the issue with mobile devices was the limited keypad and screen size. He also said the popularity around Linux was changing attitudes around device drivers, but that Linux still did not have the kind of support he wishes it had.

"It used to be that very few hardware manufacturers really actively tried to help Linux people write drivers. And now, at least, I'm personally getting the feeling that the companies that don't try to help, at least with documentation and sometimes even with writing drivers themselves, are starting to even be a minority."


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