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Linux is a kernel written by Linus Torvalds in the early 1990s for the GNU operating system, a free clone of Unix started by Richard Stallman in 1983. The version 1.0 kernel was ready in 1994, and it is currently at version 4.15. The kernel was released under the GPL, which requires anyone distributing a modified version of it to make the source code available, freely usable, and freely modifiable. The Linux kernel is the foundation for Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world. Linux has gained extensive penetration into the server market, where it is particularly popular as the basis for web servers. These computers do much of the heavy lifting for services like Facebook and Google. Linux is also used extensively in scientific computing, and is the most dominant supercomputer operating system, with all of the top 500 supercomputers running Linux as of 2017.
Linux is popular among computer enthusiasts, but because few manufacturers bundle Linux with their computers, it has not achieved more than two percent penetration into the desktop market share. Microsoft uses its monopoly power to threaten manufacturers with higher prices if they ship any PCs with Linux pre-installed; however, with the introduction of so-called netbooks (e.g. small, cheap computers – "SCC") by many manufacturers, Linux briefly found a new niche in the computer market which could not be catered to by Windows XP, given the latter's insistence on a confusing, contradictory user experience (i.e. the Start Screen) nobody asked for and greatly increased system requirements. In fact, Linux was responsible for the prolonged life of Windows XP, after Microsoft belatedly realized the threat to its monopoly position posed by Linux. In the years since, Linux has soldiered on. It may have a minuscule 1-2% desktop install base, but its presence on Internet servers is extensive. In mainframes and embedded systems, it has a sizable marketshare, but not a majority.
Due to the lack of online activation, the popularity of distributions is difficult to determine. Most sources agree that either Ubuntu or Linux Mint (a fork of Debian and Ubuntu respectively) is the most popular.
In 2003, the SCO Group, which licensed Unix systems on behalf of Novell, filed infringement lawsuits against IBM, Daimler-Chrysler, Red Hat, and Autozone for using Linux (Red Hat has its own distribution of Linux), which they asserted was derived from intellectual property they claimed to have created. They also piqued the interest of the Linux community at large by asserting a $699 fee for every installed copy of Linux, anywhere. Five years later the SCO Group filed for bankruptcy, impoverished by their own legal fees pursuing the litigation and defending against counter-claims. SCO's assertions were rendered moot by a judgment that the intellectual property was in fact held by Novell all along. Novell, which has its own Linux distribution, openSUSE, does not share SCO's beliefs.
Novell in turn wants whatever remains of the $24 million Microsoft paid SCO to run the whole scam, which was nothing more than a campaign to create "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" (FUD) to discourage switching from Windows to Linux, while the Windows Vista rollout was delayed for years.