Linux is a software company that found legendary success in what is the most influential commercial market: techno-sphere. They share elements of the typical start-up; develop new product, struggle to fund success, (hopefully) go public. It’s not a new story in today’s popular culture, with underdog stories, such as Slack technologies or the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series a few years back, happening every so often, but this was a pretty unique occurrence. For one, it’s not so common that Finland of all places makes something notable, especially at least of appeal here in the States. Additionally, the concept of Linux, free ware operating systems, completely contradicts the free market, as far as sustainability goes. It does go to show the power of hackers in the bazaar.
Through their tenacity, Linus Torvalds and company were able to sell their product without sacrificing their principles, despite the issues they came across in the process. For example, their lack of real structure allowed them to temporarily lose their rights to the Linux name. Composing a team of developers allows for some tight programming, but leaves the legal and business side of things under resourced. These aspects eventually do get serviced, but not without issues coming up beforehand.
However, Linux proved that this type of preplanning is not necessary. They were backed up by partners to continue smooth development, but I don’t think it was merely fortunate circumstances. Torvalds was able to leverage the resources from the University of Helsinki not by mere chance or because he was in the right place in the right time (to a degree), but because he applied himself in the proper way and found a network that believed in his product.
Linus also showed a breath of fresh air to corporate loyalty. He was able to “sell out” without sell out. He got a job with Transmeta, a simple necessity while he had a child on the way to take care of. He defied the questions in the industry of whether he would stay true to his open source principles by standing by said principles. Even as he met with the high ups and made a network, he would openly criticize their closed source models for development. The open source wasn’t just a gimmick to Torvalds, but a belief of humanity to reach the next technological stage.
On the other side of that coin, I do not think another open source success story with the same scope as Linux will ever happen. Linux tapped into an unexplored market and set the foundation for the open source community to find commercial and social success. It was far from the first, with Torvalds being inspired by Richard Stallman in his younger days, but Stallman did to Torvalds what Jaws did to Sharknado. There might be open source projects that gross as much if not more money than Linux, but the proportional impact cannot be the same. After all, a legacy is more than just the bread that the fore runner can bring in.