Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. It also means 'I am what I am because of who we all are'. The Ubuntu operating system brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the world of computers.
Where did it all begin?
Linux was already established as an enterprise server platform in 2004. But free software was still not a part of everyday life for most computer users. That's why Mark Shuttleworth gathered a small team of developers from one of the most established Linux projects – Debian - and set out to create an easy-to-use Linux desktop, Ubuntu.
The vision for Ubuntu is part social and part economic: free software, available free of charge to everybody on the same terms, and funded through a portfolio of services provided by Canonical.
The Ubuntu team broke new ground in committing to a programme of scheduled releases on a predictable six-month basis. It was decided that every fourth release, issued on a two-year basis, would receive long-term support (LTS). LTS releases are typically used for large-scale deployments.
Ubuntu is different from the commercial Linux offerings that preceded it because it doesn't divide its efforts between a high-quality commercial version and a free, 'community' version. The commercial and community teams collaborate to produce a single, high-quality release, which receives ongoing maintenance for a defined period. Both the release and ongoing updates are freely available to all users.
Version 4.10, codenamed the 'Warty Warthog', the first official Ubuntu release, was launched in October 2004. Global interest in Ubuntu was dramatic from the outset. The year following the Warty Warthog release saw huge growth in the Ubuntu community as thousands of free software enthusiasts and experts joined.
The governance of Ubuntu is somewhat independent of Canonical, with volunteer leaders from around the world taking responsibility for many of the critical elements of the project. It remains a key tenet of the Ubuntu Project that Ubuntu is a shared work between Canonical, other companies, and the thousands of volunteers who bring their expertise to bear on making it a world-class platform for the whole world to use.
The first version of Ubuntu was based on the GNOME desktop. We have since added a KDE edition, Kubuntu, and a server edition. All of the editions of Ubuntu share common infrastructure and software, making Ubuntu a unique platform that scales from consumer electronics to the desktop, and into the cloud for enterprise computing. Developers can work on their desktop of choice, and smoothly deliver code to cloud servers running the stripped-down Ubuntu Server Edition.
In recent years, special emphasis has been placed on netbooks for lightweight, connected, mobile computing, and on the cloud as a new architecture for data centres. Ubuntu is a pioneer in both fields, with Ubuntu Netbook Edition and Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud setting the standard for easy deployment and management. Ubuntu is hugely popular on Amazon's EC2 and Rackspace's Cloud, and is pre-installed on computers from Dell, Lenovo and other global vendors.
Ubuntu still is and always will be free to use, share and develop. We hope it will bring a touch of light to your computing – and we hope that you'll join us in helping to build the next version too.