Linux Kernel: History, Applications, and Major Distributions

The kernel is the primary layer between the operating system and computer hardware. The Kernel has always been considered one of the basic building blocks of a computer’s operating system. It provides essential services to the entire operating system. Also, it plays an important role in the smooth running of computer operations, such as storage, processing, file management, etc.

Linux Kernel

An operating system’s kernel performs several functions; it provides the necessary interaction interface for users and computer applications, oversees the operation of significant hardware devices, and ensures the proper running of applications. All other tasks an OS kernel performs can be categorized under these three.

Usually, Kernels can be categorized into three groups based on their architecture: Monolithic, Microkernel, and Hybrid. What distinguishes these kernels is the number of address spaces they are compatible with. An address space is the amount of memory dedicated to all usable addresses for a computerized entity, such as a server, a device, or a file.

The Linux kernel falls under the Monolithic kernel types. It is a free, open-source, and multitasking operating system kernel.

Brief History of Linux Kernel

The Linux kernel is a Unix-like operating systems kernel that Linus Torvalds originally established in 1991 for personal computers that were i386 based. However, the Linux kernel was later adopted as the kernel for GNU (GNU’s-Not-Unix) operating system, which was programmed to be a free substitute for Unix. Bell Labs’ prototypical operating systems influenced the architecture of Unix-like computer operating systems; hence, it imitated its characteristics.

At that time, Linus Torvalds was just a 21-year-old computer student at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Linus was by two other software projects: GNU and MINIX. MINIX is a Unix-like computer operating system that Andrew S. Tanenbaum developed in 1987. MINIX was programmed to handle educational needs. Likewise, GNU is a Unix-like operating system that Richard Stallman developed in 1983. However, unlike a typical Unix operating system, GNU is free and doesn’t entail any Unix code.

Initially, Linus preferred to use MINIX, and he used it throughout his stay at the University of Helsinki as a student. Soon, he had to look for better options due to MINIX’s frustrating licensing model. So, Linus decided to develop his software that would be compatible with the concept of free software and serve as an alternative to Unix. At that time, the concept of free software was just gaining ground due to the efforts of Richard Stallman and his GNU General Public License, which provided users with the ability to operate, study, share and tweak the software.

In September 1991, Linus released the first version of the Linux kernel on the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server of the Finnish University and Research Network (FUNET). This version was called version 0.01 and contained 10,239 lines of code. About a month later, on the 5th of October, 1991, Linus announced the Linux Kernel version 0.02. Even though version 0.02 still depended on MINIX to run efficiently, the number of contributors interested in the project was on the rise.

A few weeks later, in December 1991, Linus released the Linux kernel 0.11. The Linux kernel 0.11 was the first Linux kernel version that could be compiled by a computer operating on the same kernel version. To be independent of MINIX and achieve its free software aims, Linux adopted the GNU General Public License in February 1992 following the release of the Linux kernel 0.12

Subsequently, the Linux kernel kept improving, and the Linux kernel version 2 was released on June 6, 1996. Afterward, the Linux kernel version 2.2.13, compatible with enterprise-level (particularly IBM mainframe patches) machines, was developed on December 18, 1999. The current Linux kernel versions contain over 27 million lines of code and operate on all-powerful supercomputers. The Linux kernel also operates on servers, smartphones, desktops, and laptops and powers the Internet of Things (IoT).

Linux Applications

Linux consists of an array of applications that are needed to perform day-to-day tasks. Some of these applications are:


Shortcut is a free video editing and open-source software available on Linux. This application software is also compatible with Windows and macOS. Additionally, Shortcut performs all forms of audio and video formats efficiently. It also houses sophisticated video filters such as audio-waveform visualization, peak meter, spectrum analyzer, etc. Editing videos with Shortcut is straightforward to use. Options such as cutting, copying, and pasting texts to videos, trimming videos, and rotating videos are also present. Therefore, the Shortcut application is a complete package for video editing.


LibreOffice is a free, complete, and one of the most preferred office suites. The reasons for its popularity are not far-fetched. LibreOffice possesses a basic interface that portrays enthralling and advanced features. This application contains six constituent programs that can execute various operations. LibreOffice possesses different applications that handle different tasks.

For instance,

  • the Writer app handles word processing
  • the Calc app works well for spreadsheets
  • the Impress app for presentations
  • the Draw app for vector diagrams
  • the Math app for mathematical operations, and
  • the Base app for handling databases.

Mozilla Firefox

For most Linux renditions, including the Linux Mint and Ubuntu, the Mozilla Firefox application is their default internet browser. Mozilla Firefox possesses a user-friendly interface along with its speed. Additionally, Mozilla Firefox supports countless web extensions, add-ons, and up-to-date features that provide its users with a personalized web experience.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a free text editor developed by Microsoft for programming operations. It can also be used for coding on Linux and macOS. Asides from coding, several plugins, such as default integrations, debugging, code refactoring, etc., can also be done on this app. Video studio code is a customizable application that provides users with a wide array of add-ons and other features that can be downloaded depending on users’ needs. Video studio code works well with several programming languages, including Java, Python, HTML, CSS, etc.


Linux also offers an open-source music application that can organize, edit, and play audio. Rhythmbox is one of the applications. It is programmed to work efficiently in several desktop environments. Rhythmbox possesses commendable scalability and can seamlessly manage libraries containing lots of music files. The application owes its success to its unique features, such as music playback, Unicode support, tagging music, audio scribbling, etc. For many Linux versions, such as Linux Mint and Ubuntu, Rhythmbox is the default audio player.


Linux also offers an open-source digital audio editor and recorder called Audacity. This application is also functional on Windows and macOS. It simultaneously supports recordings from numerous input devices, such as a keyboard and a USB microphone.

Furthermore, Audacity is also useful for editing and trimming audio files of different formats. It has an interesting feature that allows it to support multiple tracks and combine them to make single music.

Linux Market Share

According to EnterpriseAppsToday, Linux is the third most used operating system and has a general market share of 2.09%. Linux comes behind the macOS, the second most used desktop operating system, with a market share of 15.33%, and Windows OS, the most used desktop operating system, with a market share of 73.72%. Nevertheless, statistics have shown that the Linux market share grows at a rate of 19.2% due to the upswing in the number of servers and the proliferating internet penetration. The driving force behind market growth is the rapid expansion of data centers and the utilization of these data centers. Several aspects of the business ( and the general) world, such as IT, healthcare, education, manufacturing, etc., are adopting Linux.

Linux is gaining ground in the internet world. Also, ZDNet affirms that the Linux operating system powers about 96.3% of the world’s leading web servers. These include Twitter, eBay, and Yahoo!, among others. This bolsters the popularity of the Linux operating system. Additionally, up to 62% of the embedded systems in cloud infrastructures operate on the Linux operating system.

As of August 2022, the latest Linux market shares, as stated by ItsFoss, are:

  • NetMarketShare: Linux currently has a market share of about 1.77%. This still falls behind the macOS (6.96%) and Windows OS (90.25%).
  • Steam Survey: When it comes to desktop gaming, Linux owns a market share of about 1.27% as of August 2022.
  • W3Schools: Linux owns about 4.4% of the market share in this aspect.
  • StatCounter: Here, Linux has a grip on 2.81% of the market share.
  • Stack Overflow Survey: based on the number of developers who participate in stack overflow surveys, about 40% of the users use Linux-based operating systems for personal use, and a little over 39% use this operating system for professional tasks.
  • Statista: Linux occupies 2.42% of the market shares in Statista.

Linux Major Distributions

Due to its free and open-source features, Linux has birthed several distributions. Some of these distributions are;

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a Linux distribution developed to solve commercial or business enterprise problems. RHEL is among the leading open-source tools that provide stability and regular security maintenance, which fortifies its general security. In the server environment, RHEL is prioritized, and as a result, it can be easily set up on physical servers and virtual environments.

Redhat trains and certifies system operators and administrators through its professional courses, such as RHCSA (Red Hat Certified System Administrators) and RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer). For enterprises that prioritize security, productivity, and reliability, RHEL is the ideal Linux distribution to adopt.


OpenSUSE is a modern community Linux project that perfectly fits system administrators and open-source developers. OpenSUSE has two primary branches:

  • SUSE Leap: targets desktop users and enterprise development and can be used for testing purposes.
  • SUSE Tumbleweed: a rolling update that entails the most recent software stacks and Integrated Development Environments.


Ubuntu was developed and maintained by Canonical, and it has become one of the most popular Linux distributions preferred by beginners internationally. Ubuntu was originally designed for beginners in Linux and users migrating from other operating systems to the Linux operating system.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a very popular community-oriented Linux distribution that has transmogrified over time to become one of the most pleasant and user-friendly Linux distributions preferred by desktop users. Users that need a fast and reliable Linux desktop to execute their daily desktop tasks, gaming, watching videos, playing audio, etc., should consider the Linux Mint.