Timeline of free and open-source software

Last updated

This article presents a timeline of events related to popular free/open-source software. For a narrative explaining the overall development, see the related history of free and open-source software.


The Achievements column documents achievements a project attained at some point in time (not necessarily when it was first released).


1976 Emacs The original EMACS was a set of Editor MACroS for the TECO editor written in 1976 by Richard Stallman, initially together with Guy L. Steele Jr. Later in 1984 the GNU Emacs was released under a GNU General Public License. [1] Longest continuously-developed GNU project


1982 TeX Originally written by Donald Knuth in 1978, the new version of TeX was rewritten from scratch and was published in 1982. [2] One of the longest continuously-developed open source projects
1983, September GNU Project Announced by Richard Stallman on Usenet as a project to create a "Free Unix" [3] Became the standard userland for Linux (c. 1991); USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award (2001)
1984 X Window System X originated at MIT in 1984. The current protocol version, X11, appeared in September 1987. The X.Org Foundation now leads the X project, with the current reference implementation, X.org Server, available as free software under the MIT License and similar permissive licenses.Most popular windowing system implementation for desktop Linux and all Unix operating systems, excluding Mac OS X
1985 Free Software Foundation Founded by Richard Stallman to support Free Software projects and issue revisions to key software licenses, notably the GPL Prix Ars Electronica (2005)
1987 GCC Written by Richard Stallman with contributions from others as the C compiler for the GNU Project. Later the project would be known as the GNU Compiler Collection.
1987 Perl Perl, the dynamic programming language was created by Larry Wall and first released in 1987.
1989 BSD Networking Release 1 (Net/1) was made available to non-licensees of AT&T code and it was freely redistributable under the terms of the BSD license


1991 Linux kernel Started by Linus Torvalds, Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it would grow from a small number of C files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to its state in 2007 of about 290 megabytes of source under the GNU General Public License.Many, including: Most popular kernel used by top 500 supercomputers. Most popular kernel in mobile devices sold in 2013.
1991 Python First released by Guido van Rossum in 1991.
1992 386BSD 386BSD was written mainly by Berkeley alumni Lynne Jolitz and William Jolitz. The 386BSD releases made to the public beginning in 1992.
1992 Samba Andrew Tridgell developed the first version of Samba in 1992, at the Australian National University.
1993, March NetBSD The project began as a result of frustration within the 386BSD developer community with the pace and direction of the operating system's development. The four founders of the NetBSD project were Chris Demetriou, Theo de Raadt, Adam Glass and Charles Hannum.
1993, August R First released by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland, NZ
1993, Dec FreeBSD FreeBSD's development began in 1993 with a quickly growing, unofficial patchkit maintained by users of the 386BSD operating system. The first official release was FreeBSD 1.0 in December 1993.
1993 Wine Bob Amstadt (the initial project leader) and Eric Youngdale started the project in 1993 as a way to run Windows applications on Linux.Now able to run vast numbers of Windows applications and video games
1994, March Linux Journal First issue of the first computer magazine dedicated to Linux.
1994, March BSD 4.4BSD-Lite was released that no longer require a USL source license.
1995, June PHP Originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, it was released publicly on June 1995.Formed part of the most popular web development stack (LAMP) in the 1990s and 2000s
1995 GIMP Created by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis, the project originally stood for General Image Manipulation Program.Used by Hollywood, in the forked form of CinePaint (formerly known as Film Gimp)
1995 Ruby Created by Yukihiro Matsumoto, the programming language drew greater attention in the 2000s due to the Ruby on Rails web development frameworkBecame extremely popular with internet startups
1996 Apache The first version of the Apache web server was created by Robert McCool, who was heavily involved with the NCSA web server, known simply as NCSA HTTPd.Most popular web server
1996 KDE KDE was founded in 1996 by Matthias Ettrich, who was then a student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen.
1997, August GNOME The initial project leaders for GNOME were Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena.
1999, August OpenOffice.org Originally developed as the proprietary software application suite StarOffice by the German company StarDivision, the code was purchased in 1999 by Sun Microsystems. The code was made available free of charge in August 1999. On July 19, 2000, Sun Microsystems announced that it was making the source code of StarOffice available for download under both the LGPL and the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL)


2000 LLVM Compiler toolkit, started at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Initially a research project and known as "Low-Level Virtual Machine".Adopted by Apple as their primary compilation platform for Mac OS X
2001 Free Software Foundation Europe Founded to support free software and oppose software patents in EuropeTheodor Heuss Medal (2010)
2002 Blender Formerly proprietary software, released as open source in 2002 after a crowdfunding campaign
2002 MediaWiki There was no name for the project, until the Wikimedia Foundation was announced in June 2003, when name MediaWiki was coined by a Wikipedia contributor.Integral to the development of Wikipedia
2003, February New Zealand Open Source Society New Zealand Open Source Society (NZOSS), a non-profit organization and incorporated society began with a suggestive letter by David Lane to the government, along with 400 supporters signatures to begin the advancement of open software in New Zealand.
2003, April Firefox Descended from the Mozilla Application Suite, the project started as an experimental branch of the Mozilla Project. Originally titled Phoenix, then renamed as Firebird, the project was finally named Mozilla Firefox. The version 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004.Second most popular web browser in the world
2003, May WordPress a free and open-source content management system (CMS) written in PHP and paired with a MySQL or MariaDB database.Most popular content management system in the world
2004 Ubuntu a user friendly linux distro
2005 Git Created by Linux founder Linus TorvaldsWorld's most popular distributed revision control system
2008, September Chromium Released by GoogleForms the majority of the code in Google Chrome, the most popular web browser in the world
2008 Android Released by GoogleMost popular mobile platform in the world
2009 ChromiumOS Released by GoogleHas since enjoyed popular use in types of devices known as Chromebooks and Chromeboxes

By the 2000s the number of open source software packages in wide use was so large that it would be infeasible to make a definitive list.


2010, March Linaro Founded
2010 LibreOffice LibreOffice is released; a free open office suite including applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, drawing and database.Available in over 100 languages.
2010 Android Becomes most popular smartphone operating system (OS), [4] later became most popular general purpose OS overall.
2011 Git Microsoft survey of 1,000 software developers reveals that Git is the most popular version control system among developers [5]
2011 Bootstrap Free CSS and JavaScript development starting kit, released by Twitter Becomes most popular repository on GitHub (2012)
2012 Google Chrome, based on ChromiumOvertakes Internet Explorer to become most widely used web browser, according to StatCounter
2013 Firefox OS Mobile phone operating system, released by Mozilla Foundation
2013 (Q2) Android Overtakes iOS to become most popular tablet operating system [6]
2013, September SteamOS Valve's new Linux-based operating system for its Steambox consoles, intended to promote Linux gaming and spread Linux adoption in the high-end video game sector
2014, February Vue.js The JavaScript framework Vue.js is releasedBecomes most popular JavaScript framework on GitHub
2019, July Debian Debian 10 "Buster" is released [7]


2020, June Linux The Linux operating systems market share breaks the 3% marker for the first time in June 2020, reaching 3.57% in July 2020. [8] [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linux distribution</span> Operating system based on the Linux kernel

A Linux distribution is an operating system made from a software collection that includes the Linux kernel and, often, a package management system. Linux users usually obtain their operating system by downloading one of the Linux distributions, which are available for a wide variety of systems ranging from embedded devices and personal computers to powerful supercomputers.

Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. For example, Windows NT for consumers, Windows Server for servers, and Windows IoT for embedded systems. Defunct Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wine (software)</span> Windows compatibility software

Wine is a free and open-source compatibility layer that aims to allow application software and computer games developed for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems. Wine also provides a software library, named Winelib, against which developers can compile Windows applications to help port them to Unix-like systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Package manager</span> Software tools for handling software packages

A package manager or package-management system is a collection of software tools that automates the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing computer programs for a computer in a consistent manner.

In computing, cross-platform software is computer software that is designed to work in several computing platforms. Some cross-platform software requires a separate build for each platform, but some can be directly run on any platform without special preparation, being written in an interpreted language or compiled to portable bytecode for which the interpreters or run-time packages are common or standard components of all supported platforms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The SWORD Project</span>

The SWORD Project is the CrossWire Bible Society's free software project. Its purpose is to create cross-platform open-source tools—covered by the GNU General Public License—that allow programmers and Bible societies to write new Bible software more quickly and easily.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">XScreenSaver</span> Screensaver software

XScreenSaver is a free and open-source collection of 240+ screensavers for Unix, macOS, iOS and Android operating systems. It was created by Jamie Zawinski in 1992 and is still maintained by him, with new releases coming out several times a year.

These tables provide a comparison of operating systems, of computer devices, as listing general and technical information for a number of widely used and currently available PC or handheld operating systems. The article "Usage share of operating systems" provides a broader, and more general, comparison of operating systems that includes servers, mainframes and supercomputers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linux</span> Family of Unix-like operating systems

Linux is a family of open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged as a Linux distribution, which includes the kernel and supporting system software and libraries, many of which are provided by the GNU Project. Many Linux distributions use the word "Linux" in their name, but the Free Software Foundation uses the name "GNU/Linux" to emphasize the importance of GNU software, causing some controversy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of free and open-source software</span> Aspect of history

In the 1950s and 1960s, computer operating software and compilers were delivered as a part of hardware purchases without separate fees. At the time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software providing the ability to fix bugs or add new functions. Universities were early adopters of computing technology. Many of the modifications developed by universities were openly shared, in keeping with the academic principles of sharing knowledge, and organizations sprung up to facilitate sharing. As large-scale operating systems matured, fewer organizations allowed modifications to the operating software, and eventually such operating systems were closed to modification. However, utilities and other added-function applications are still shared and new organizations have been formed to promote the sharing of software.

Comparison of the Java and .NET platforms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mono (software)</span> Computer software project

Mono is a free and open-source .NET Framework-compatible software framework. Originally by Ximian, it was later acquired by Novell, and is now being led by Xamarin, a subsidiary of Microsoft and the .NET Foundation. Mono can be run on many software systems.

Besides the Linux distributions designed for general-purpose use on desktops and servers, distributions may be specialized for different purposes including computer architecture support, embedded systems, stability, security, localization to a specific region or language, targeting of specific user groups, support for real-time applications, or commitment to a given desktop environment. Furthermore, some distributions deliberately include only free software. As of 2015, over four hundred Linux distributions are actively developed, with about a dozen distributions being most popular for general-purpose use.

Microsoft, a technology company historically known for its opposition to the open source software paradigm, turned to embrace the approach in the 2010s. From the 1970s through 2000s under CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft viewed the community creation and sharing of communal code, later to be known as free and open source software, as a threat to its business, and both executives spoke negatively against it. In the 2010s, as the industry turned towards cloud, embedded, and mobile computing—technologies powered by open source advances—CEO Satya Nadella led Microsoft towards open source adoption although Microsoft's traditional Windows business continued to grow throughout this period generating revenues of 26.8 billion in the third quarter of 2018, while Microsoft's Azure cloud revenues nearly doubled.

vcpkg is a cross-platform open source package manager by Microsoft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CBL-Mariner</span> Microsoft open source operating system

CBL-Mariner is a free and open-source Linux distribution that Microsoft has developed. It is the base container OS for Microsoft Azure services and the graphical component of WSL 2.

Comparison of user features of operating systems refers to a comparison of the general user features of major operating systems in a narrative format. It does not encompass a full exhaustive comparison or description of all technical details of all operating systems. It is a comparison of basic roles and the most prominent features. It also includes the most important features of the operating system's origins, historical development, and role.


  1. Yu-wei, Lin (June 2005), "Epistemologically Multiple Actor-Centred System: or EMACS at Work!" (PDF), System Design Frontier, vol. 2, no. 6, pp. 25–35, retrieved April 21, 2013.
  2. Beebe, Nelson H. F. (2003), "25 Years of TEX and METAFONT: Looking Back and Looking Forward" (PDF), TUGboat, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 7–30, retrieved April 21, 2013.
  3. Richard Stallman. "new Unix implementation".
  4. Hachman, Mark (October 5, 2010). "Nielsen: Android Is Most Popular Smartphone OS | News & Opinion". PCMag.com. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  5. Ravi Mandalia (July 20, 2011). "Microsoft Survey Reveals GitHub, Git Most Popular among Developers". IT Pro Portal. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  6. Devin Coldewey (September 27, 2013). "Android overtakes iPad in tablet race". NBC News. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  7. "Debian 10: Playing catch-up with the rest of the Linux world (that's a good thing)". Ars Technica. September 11, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  8. Moore, Mike. "Microsoft may finally have some encouraging news for Windows 10 users". TechRadar. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  9. Popa, Bogdan. "Windows Grows as Linux Declines a Little in July 2020". softpedia. Retrieved September 1, 2020.