Timeline of open-source software

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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.

Free software software licensed to preserve user freedoms

Free software or libre software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users—individually or in cooperation with computer programmers—are free to do what they want with their copies of a free software regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program. Computer programs are deemed free insofar as they give users ultimate control over the first, thereby allowing them to control what their devices are programmed to do.

Open-source software software licensed to ensure source code usage rights

Open-source software (OSS) is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. Open-source software is a prominent example of open collaboration.

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.


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.


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, 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.
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
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 Chromium OS 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.


March 2010 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 revision 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 Corporation'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

See also

This is a record of historically important programming languages, by decade.

This article presents a timeline of events in the history of computer operating systems from 1951 to the current day. For a narrative explaining the overall developments, see the History of operating systems.

Related Research Articles

GNU Unix-like operating system

GNU is an operating system and an extensive collection of computer software. GNU is composed wholly of free software, most of which is licensed under the GNU Project's own General Public License (GPL).

Java (programming language) Object-oriented programming language

Java is a general-purpose computer-programming language that is concurrent, class-based, object-oriented, and specifically designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. It is intended to let application developers "write once, run anywhere" (WORA), meaning that compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilation. Java applications are typically compiled to bytecode that can run on any Java virtual machine (JVM) regardless of computer architecture. As of 2016, Java is one of the most popular programming languages in use, particularly for client-server web applications, with a reported 9 million developers. Java was originally developed by James Gosling, a Canadian, at Sun Microsystems and released in 1995 as a core component of Sun Microsystems' Java platform. The language derives much of its original features from SmallTalk, with a syntax similar to C and C++, but it has fewer low-level facilities than either of them.

Linux distribution Operating system based on the Linux kernel

A Linux distribution is an operating system made from a software collection, which is based upon 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.

GNU Build System

The GNU Build System, also known as the Autotools, is a suite of programming tools designed to assist in making source code packages portable to many Unix-like systems.

dpkg is the software at the base of the package management system in the free operating system Debian and its numerous derivatives. dpkg is used to install, remove, and provide information about .deb packages.

R (programming language) programming language for statistical computing

R is a programming language and free software environment for statistical computing and graphics supported by the R Foundation for Statistical Computing. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis. Polls, data mining surveys, and studies of scholarly literature databases show substantial increases in popularity in recent years. as of March 2019, R ranks 14th in the TIOBE index, a measure of popularity of programming languages.

Linux Family of free and open-source software operating systems based on the Linux kernel

Linux is a family of free and open-source software operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged in a Linux distribution.

A software repository, colloquially known as a "repo" for short, is a storage location from which software packages may be retrieved and installed on a computer.

GNU Emacs GNU version of the Emacs text editor

GNU Emacs is the most popular and most ported Emacs text editor. It was created by GNU Project founder Richard Stallman. In common with other varieties of Emacs, GNU Emacs is extensible using a Turing complete programming language. GNU Emacs has been called "the most powerful text editor available today". With proper support from the underlying system, GNU Emacs is able to display files in multiple character sets, and has been able to simultaneously display most human languages since at least 1999. Throughout its history, GNU Emacs has been a central component of the GNU project, and a flagship of the free software movement. GNU Emacs is sometimes abbreviated as GNUMACS, especially to differentiate it from other EMACS variants. The tag line for GNU Emacs is "the extensible self-documenting text editor".

Org-mode free software

Org-mode is a document editing, formatting, and organizing mode, designed for notes, planning, and authoring within the free software text editor Emacs. The name is used to encompass plain text files that include simple marks to indicate levels of a hierarchy, and an editor with functions that can read the markup and manipulate hierarchy elements.

Index of Android OS articles

A list of Android -related topics

This is a list of file synchronization software. File synchronization is a process of ensuring that files in two or more locations are updated via certain rules.

Homebrew (package management software) open-source package management system for macOS and Linux

Homebrew is a free and open-source software package management system that simplifies the installation of software on Apple's macOS operating system and Linux. The name means building software on your Mac depending on taste. Originally written by Max Howell, the package manager has gained popularity in the Ruby on Rails community and earned praise for its extensibility. Homebrew has been recommended for its ease of use as well as its integration into the command line. Homebrew is a non-profit project member of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and is run entirely by unpaid volunteers.

Hybris (software)

Hybris or libhybris is a compatibility layer for computers running Linux distributions based on the GNU C library, intended for using software written for Bionic-based Linux systems, which mainly includes Android libraries and device drivers.

Nim (programming language) programming language

Nim is an imperative, multi-paradigm, compiled programming language designed and developed by Andreas Rumpf. It is designed to be "efficient, expressive, and elegant", supporting metaprogramming, functional, message passing, procedural, and object-oriented programming styles by providing several features such as compile time code generation, algebraic data types, a foreign function interface (FFI) with C and compiling to JavaScript, C, and C++.


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  2. Beebe, Nelson H. F. (2003), "25 Years of TEX and METAFONT: Looking Back and Looking Forward" (PDF), TUGboat, 25 (1), pp. 7–30, retrieved 2013-04-21.
  3. Richard Stallman. "new Unix implementation".
  4. Hachman, Mark (2010-10-05). "Nielsen: Android Is Most Popular Smartphone OS | News & Opinion". PCMag.com. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  5. Ravi Mandalia (20 July 2011). "Microsoft Survey Reveals GitHub, Git Most Popular among Developers". IT Pro Portal. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  6. Devin Coldewey (27 September 2013). "Android overtakes iPad in tablet race". NBC News. Retrieved 28 September 2013.