How many people have worked on Linux?
July 26, 2005 10:20 PM   Subscribe

How many programmers are capable of contributing to Linux? Of those, how many have contributed, since Linux began?
posted by Tlogmer to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Just about any programmer is capable of contributing to Linux in some fashion. On top of that, there's tons of people that contribute to linux in some fashion that's non-programming, such as writing documentation files or doing testing.

Are you meaning just the Linux kernel, or are you also talking about the rest of the open-source movement?
posted by SpecialK at 10:32 PM on July 26, 2005

are capable? the majority of professional developers have the capability, whether or not the specific knowledge. Many developers have submitted small patches. How many contributed? You could look in the changelog, but I would guess its easily in the thousands. 'Contributed' is vague though, since linux is so easy to submit patches to (one of the negative aspects of it, IMO - I prefer the BSD model of higher supervision of what goes in the OS)
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:33 PM on July 26, 2005

That's really an incredibly vague question. Every release of the linux kernel comes with a CREDITS file that lists contributors. There have been some studies done on the nature of this file. Groklaw might have some more up-to-date information about total authors since it has become much more relevent with the SCO litigation.

As to how many potential programmers exist that are capable of contributing? How in the world would anyone know that? It's like asking, "How many general contractors out there are capable of building a house?" There are two problems with the question: One, it would require counting a number of people with a very vague skill set. Two, "contributing" is an extremely vague term. There are some people that contribute one or two line bug fixes or other janitorial tasks -- the equivalent of placing a single brick into a foundation of a building. But they are "contributors." In theory anyone with sufficient brain cells can do this, regardless of background or programming history. It's just not something you can count.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:33 PM on July 26, 2005

Sorry about the vagueness; I'm not looking for any number more specific than an order of magnitude, really. (Thanks for the links; I'll look through them.)

Just about any programmer is capable of contributing to Linux in some fashion.

The definintion of "programmer" has ill-defined boundaries, though -- lots of people can hack together a website containing a bit of javascript, for example. To submit an addendum: about how many programmers in the world are there under your definition (100,000? A million? 10 million?).
posted by Tlogmer at 12:23 AM on July 27, 2005

Well I think, as Rhomboid mentioned, the question strongly depends on what one defines as contribution. Are you talking about core development to the kernel only or say to kernel modules like device drivers and filters. If you are talking about linux as a short hand for the general enterprise of Linux and things that run on Linux, that would be a different matter as nearly all humans would then become potential contributors.

Say you are just talking about the kernel though. Does contribution mean origination of architecture and ideas or can it include testing, debugging, documentation, grunt programming, etc?

Depending on how restrictive you set these criteria I'd suspect you might reasonably get calculations from 10-100's of thousands to 10-100's of millions.
posted by rudyfink at 2:30 AM on July 27, 2005

Hm. The kernel and and desktop environments, I guess -- but yes, including debugging and grunt programming (though not testing and documentation).
posted by Tlogmer at 3:43 AM on July 27, 2005

If you include the suite of apps generally referred to as Linux, you're probably looking at something over 100,000 developers. If you're only talking about the kernel, I'd still expect it to be in the 10,000 neighborhood.

OSS is routinely leveraged by commercial companies to build proprietary systems. A side effect of this is that these developers routinely submit new features and bug fixes back to the original project. OS software's primary development drive is no longer geeks with a pet hobby. These days it's professional developers who get value from contributing changes back into existing systems, and who OS pieces of proprietary apps out of a combination of generosity, and a desire to increase their development speed by adding testers and developers.
posted by mosch at 8:27 AM on July 27, 2005

There are a lot of people who are capable of contributing who don't use Linux at all, and I'm not sure how you would count them.
posted by smackfu at 2:28 PM on July 27, 2005

I would say kernel hackers could probably be more than 10, 000. probably closer to 100, 000.

Sourceforge alone has 100,000 project (admittedly not all Linux-only) and 1,000,000 members. I thinks that's a fairly good ballpark figure for the total. Not all of those members contribute, but I know lots of people who do open-source development that's not on sourceforge too.
posted by sirsteven at 6:20 AM on March 28, 2006

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