Both basement nerds and major corporations contribute to the Linux kernel

When it comes to Linux, people tend to picture pale nerds in a basement coding away; which is only partly true. You see, in addition to those independent basement nerds, major companies such as Google and Samsung are also involved. The Linux foundation periodically publishes a report on who contributes to the Linux kernel. Today, the foundation releases the newest report titled "Linux Kernel Development: How Fast It is Going, Who is Doing It, What They Are Doing and Who is Sponsoring It."

According to the report, "The Linux kernel is one of the largest and most successful open source projects that has ever come about. The huge rate of change and number of individual contributors show that it has a vibrant and active community, constantly causing the evolution of the kernel in response to number of different environments it is used in. This rate of change continues to increase, as does the number of developers and companies involved in the process; thus far, the development process has proved that it is able to scale up to higher speeds without trouble".

This report covers the following kernel releases:

Kernel Version Release Date Days of Development
3.0 2011-07-21 64
3.1 2011-10-24 95
3.2 2011-12-31 68
3.3 2012-03-18 74
3.4 2012-05-20 63
3.5 2012-07-21 62
3.6 2012-09-30 71
3.7 2012-12-10 71
3.8 2013-02-18 70
3.9 2013-04-28 69
3.10 2013-06-30 63

In other words, we have approximately two years' worth of data. The report highlights the following details:

  • Nearly 10,000 developers from more than 1,000 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005. Just since the last report, more than 1,100 developers from 225 companies have contributed to the kernel. In fact, more developers and companies are contributing to Linux than ever before with Linux kernel 3.10 seeing the most developers helping out.
  • Mobile and embedded companies are increasing their investments in Linux. Linaro, Samsung and Texas Instruments together increased their aggregate contributions from 4.4 percent during the previous version of the paper to 11 percent of all changes this year. Google’s contributions are also up significantly this year.
  • The Top 10 organizations sponsoring Linux kernel development since the last report include Red Hat, Intel, Texas Instruments, Linaro, SUSE, IBM, Samsung, Google, Vision Engraving Systems Consultants and Wolfson Microelectronics. After appearing on the list for the first time in 2012, Microsoft notably dropped off it entirely this year. A complete list of the top 30 organizations sponsoring this work is included in the paper.
  • The rate of Linux development is unmatched. The average number of changes accepted into the kernel per hour is 7.14, which translates to 171 changes every day and more than 1,200 per week.

Below are the top 10 contributors to the kernel. According to the report, "the category 'none' represents developers who are known to be doing this work on their own, with no financial contribution happening from any company...there are a number of developers for whom we were unable to determine a corporate affiliation; those are grouped under 'unknown' in the table below".

Company

Changes

Total

None

12,550

13.6%

Red Hat

9,483

10.2%

Intel

8,108

8.8%

Texas Instruments

3,814

4.1%

Linaro

3,791

4.1%

SUSE

3,212

3.5%

Unknown

3,032

3.3%

IBM

2,858

3.1%

Samsung

2,415

2.6%

Google

2,255

2.4%

The most eye-opening piece of information is that Samsung and Google have found themselves in the top-ten list of Linux kernel contributors. However, this should not be a total shock as both companies are heavily invested in Android -- a mobile operating system that uses the Linux kernel. The two companies are invested in Chromebooks too, which (surprise!) also uses the Linux kernel.

Heavy contributions from major companies cements Linux's overall growth and maturation. However, contributions from the independent volunteer community members are continuing to thrive too. This delicate balance is important for Linus Torvald's project overall. Too much corporate involvement harms the integrity of the community aspect while too little harms growth.

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