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The Official Ubuntu Book, 7th Edition: The Ubuntu Story

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This chapter brings the history of the Ubuntu Project to life, and through its history looks to its future. If you are interested in first learning about where Ubuntu comes from and where it is going, this chapter provides a good introduction.
This chapter is from the book

Chapter 1. The Ubuntu Story

  • The Vision
  • Free Software, Open Source, and GNU/Linux
  • How the Vision Became Ubuntu
  • What Is Ubuntu?
  • Ubuntu Promises and Goals
  • Sustaining the Vision: Canonical and the Ubuntu Foundation
  • Beyond the Vision: Ubuntu Subprojects, Derivatives, and Spin-Offs
  • Summary

If you are looking to jump right in and get started with Ubuntu, you can skip this and proceed immediately to Chapter 2, Installing Ubuntu. If you are interested in first learning about where Ubuntu comes from and where it is going, this chapter provides a good introduction.

The Vision

In April 2004 Mark Shuttleworth brought together a dozen developers from the Debian, GNOME, and GNU Arch projects to brainstorm. Shuttleworth asked the developers if a better type of operating system (OS) was possible. Their answer was “Yes.” He asked them what it would look like. He asked them to describe the community that would build such an OS. That group worked with Shuttleworth to come up with answers to these questions, and then they decided to try to make the answers a reality. The group named itself the Warthogs and gave itself a six-month deadline to build a proof-of-concept OS. The developers nicknamed their first release the Warty Warthog with the reasonable assumption that their first product would have its warts. Then they got down to business.

It’s fulfilling, particularly for those of us who were privileged to be among those early Warthogs, to see the progress made by this project over the years. We had a strong beginning when, far from being warty, the Warty Warthog surpassed our most optimistic expectations and everyone’s predictions. Within six months, Ubuntu was in the Number 1 spot on several popularity rankings of GNU/Linux distributions. Ubuntu has demonstrated the most explosive growth of any GNU/Linux distribution in recent memory and had one of the most impressive first years and continued growth of any free or open source software project in history.

It is staggering to think that after so few years, millions of individuals are using Ubuntu. As many thousands of these users give back to the Ubuntu community by developing documentation, translation, and code, Ubuntu improves every day. As many thousands of these users contribute to a thriving advocacy and support community—both online and in their local communities—Ubuntu’s growth remains unchecked. Ubuntu subprojects, a list of efforts that includes Kubuntu and Ubuntu Studio, along with other projects, are extending the reach and goals of the Ubuntu project into new realms.

Meanwhile, millions of pressed Ubuntu CDs have been shipped at no cost to universities, Internet cafés, computer shops, and community centers around the world. You can find Ubuntu almost anywhere people use computers. The authors have personally seen strangers running Ubuntu on trains in Spain, in libraries in Boston, in museums in Croatia, in high schools in Mexico, across North Africa in Morocco and Tunisia, and in many more places too numerous to list here.

Over the years, Ubuntu has continued to mature. The public took even more notice of Ubuntu beginning with the release of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, the first polished release with long-term support for both desktops and servers, and followed by a new release every six months and a new LTS release every two years up to the current 12.04 LTS. With these releases, Ubuntu has proven it intends to stick around for the long term while also improving consistently and on a predictable schedule. Even with this maturation, the project maintains its youthful vigor, its ambitious attitude, its commitment to its principles, and its community-driven approach. As the project ages, it is proving that it can learn from its failures as well as its successes and that it can maintain growth without compromising stability.

We’ve come a long way—and we’re still only getting started.

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