Believe it or not, there is still this illusion that Linux and open-source software is written by counter-culture, C++ programming cultists living in their parent basements or huddled together in Cambridge, Mass. group-houses. Please. That is so twenty-years ago. Today, as the Linux Foundation reveals in its latest analysis, Linux Kernel Development: How Fast it is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing, and Who is Sponsoring It (PDF Link), it’s big business that’s making Linux in 2010.
Yes, there is a political agenda that can go with Linux and free and open-source software. It tends to be a mix of libertarian and liberal ideas and its main focus is on free “as in speech, not as in beer” software. For more on that side of free/libre/open source software (FLOSS), I recommend you visit the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Still, while the FSF’s Gnu General Public License (GPL) was, and is, vital to Linux, businesses are what drive the day-in, day-out development of Linux, and most other open-source programs.
To be specific, the Linux Foundation found that “over 70% of all [Linux] kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work.” There is still a lot of work being done by “amateurs,” about 18.9%; although I’m not sure how “amateur” a programmer can be whose work is accepted into the Linux kernel.