[GTALUG] ​Can the Internet exist without Linux? | ZDNet

Christopher Browne cbbrowne at gmail.com
Wed Jan 13 18:12:00 UTC 2016

On 13 January 2016 at 01:12, John Sellens <jsellens at syonex.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 2016/01/13 12:23:52AM -0500, Alvin Starr <alvin at netvel.net> wrote:
> | The problem that the early BSD variants faced was AT&T licensing.
> | If there was only BSD around it may have stayed closed for a long time
> | even to today.
> |
> | Eventually linux developed enough of a following that the value for
> | AT&T,SCO,Microsoft et al had no real value in trying to hold on to the
> | rights.
> I don't think that's a reasonable interpreation of the history.  BSDI and
> AT&T settled in 1994, at which point I think it was fair to say that
> proprietary UNIX still had significant value.  (Sun machines with Solaris
> were a huge part of the internet insfrastructure until the early 2000's -
> or later.)
>     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Software_Design
> My personal opinion is that if linux didn't exist, FreeBSD would likely be
> dominant, and that things would be very similar to what we currently have.
> Cheers!

There were more systems than that, so I'm by no means certain that
it would have been FreeBSD that would have dominated, though I'd
keep it pretty high on the list.

I remember using MiNT (which was Atari ST-specific, standing for
MiNT is Not TOS), which was a POSIX-y environment back then.

MINIX is what Linus Torvalds was most directly reacting to; had
Linux not emerged, people would have doubtless found MINIX more
interesting to hack on for longer.

BeOS was a later emerged development, but nevertheless, still
another of the UNIX-like systems that emerged in profusion.

I wouldn't have been shocked to see Mortice Kern Systems
have something emerge looking rather like a UNIX, based on
the MKS toolkit (which was once popular on MS-DOS).

Entertaining to quote from the Tanembaum/Torvalds feud:

"Of course 5  years from now that will be different,  but 5 years from
now  everyone  will  be  running  free  GNU on  their  200  MIPS,  64M
SPARCstation-5."  -- Andrew Tanenbaum, 1992.

(Where "free GNU" is presumably a reference to GNU Hurd.)

Some will remember QNX (which never was free, but it's
local-ish, and interesting), fewer will remember VSTa.
Mark Williams Company Coherent was a commercial Unix
clone that was pretty clearly pushed out of the market by Linux.
SCO used to be a big deal, back in the days when they
produced decent systems, rather than playing legal games.

My point isn't that any of these would individually have been
"most likely" as alternatives to Linux; the point is that there
really were a lot of would-be alternatives out there, and lots of
people working on different fragments of the "alternative Unix"

I find it highly believable that efforts would have coalesced
*somewhere* had the lawsuits relating to BSD kept up and
Linux not been around.
When confronted by a difficult problem, solve it by reducing it to the
question, "How would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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