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What a year. 1998 was the year that the Linux snowball really started to roll. Linus may have seen it all coming; the rest of us have probably been surprised at least once over the course of this year. And we have just begun.

We have put together a Linux 1998 timeline for your enjoyment. Please have a look and fill us in on the stuff that we missed; we'll put out a final version our next newsletter. Creating this timeline was a fair amount of work, but rewarding. It's impressive to see all that has happened (or even a small subset thereof) in one place.

Here, in your editor's view, are some of the more significant developments in the Linux world over the past year:

  • The public perception of Linux changes. Once seen as a toy system for hobbyists, it's now the hot system du jour. The hype will subside sooner or later, but the penguin is now taken seriously, and that will not change.

  • Big business discovers Linux. Be it Oracle, IBM, Intel, Sun, Dell, or even Microsoft, large corporations have caught on to Linux (and free software in general) and are trying to figure out how to deal with it. The result is more software for Linux, more high-profile deployments, and also more serious thought on how to compete with Linux.

  • The bazaar approach shows its viability for large projects. GNU struggled for ten years to produce a significant set of utilities; now a project like KDE or GNOME can set very ambitious goals just months in the future - and meet them. Even WINE, long held up as an example of the limits of free software development, is making good progress. This change is a direct result of the increasing popularity of free software; more users translates into more developers.

  • Kernel development runs up against human limits. The limits of the "single benevolent dictator" model are demonstrated through a couple of burnout scenes over the year. Kernel development remains vibrant and healthy, and a 2.2 kernel of outstanding quality will be available in the very near future. But some of the problems we have seen will come back again.
Such a short list necessarily leaves out a lot.

What do we have to look forward to next year? 1999 will be the year that Linux consolidates its gains and proves that it will be around for the long run. Talk of the "Linux fad" will fade away. We will see what Microsoft will really do to compete with Linux; "Windows 2000" alone will prove insufficient, to say the least. Preinstalled systems will be available from the large PC vendors. More consumer "shrink wrap" software will be ported. Between KDE and GNOME Linux will have not one but two top-quality graphical desktops. The Linux community is likely to suffer new stresses due to a large influx of new users and due to the increasing presence of large corporate players with their own agendas.

In other words, next year will be at least as interesting as this year was, and likely more so. We have only just begun.

LWN is shorthanded this week due to sick authors and sick disk drives. What you're reading is essentially the work of one person; please accept our apologies if some of the sections are a little thin.

This is the last issue of LWN for 1998, as we will be taking next week off to celebrate the holidays. Our next issue will come out on January 7, 1999. (There will be occasional daily page updates in between). We thank you all for being such a great reader community, and wish you the best of holidays and a great new year.

December 24, 1998


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