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​Can the Internet exist without Linux?

Yes, but it wouldn't be the Internet you know.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Linux Foundation recently put up a funny video showing what life might be like without Web search. It's tagline was "A world without Linux is hard to imagine." It also added, "A world without Linux would mean a world without the Internet."

Ah. No.

The Internet actually started as ARPAnet, a government sponsored packet-switching network in September 1969. Linus Torvalds wouldn't be born until December 1969.

The cartoon is really about search on the Web, not the Internet itself. The Web got its start in 1991. It first ran om NeXTStations. These were Steve Job-designed Unix workstations. They're the ancestor of today's Macs. While Tim Berners-Lee was implementing the first Web servers, Torvalds had just announced that he was working on the operating system we now call Linux.

So, with that history lesson behind us, how does The Linux Foundation get off implying the Internet wouldn't exist with Linux?

It's because they're right. The Internet you know, not the pre-Web Internet I cut my teeth on with its archie, elm, and Gopher, which largely ran on BSD Unix, does run on Linux.

Say hello to the early days of web browsers (gallery)

Of the top twenty-five websites in the world by Alexa's count, only two aren't running Linux. Those two, live.com and bing.com, both belong to Microsoft. Everyone else, Yahoo, eBay, Twitter, etc., etc., are running Linux.

Looking deeper, Linux's importance to the Web is even more extreme. By W3Cook's analysis of Alexa's data, 96.3 percent of the top 1 million web servers are running Linux. The remainder is split between Windows, 1.9 percent, and FreeBSD, 1.8 percent.

While a great deal of the Internet networking infrastruture runs on Cisco iOS, much of it also runs on Linux-based switch operating systems, such as Cumulus Linux, Big Switch's Switch Light, and VyOS, the open-source fork of Vyatta.

The cartoon focuses on search and we know Google runs on Linux -- and produces Linux-based Android and Chrome OS. But, what about the other search engines? Well, Bing, the number two search engine, runs on Windows Server 2012.

Yahoo, the third ranked search engine, used to run FreeBSD, but Yahoo moved to its own Linux, YLinux, years ago. The other top two English-language search engines, Ask and AOL (yes, really, even now), both run Linux.

Of course, these days more and more people are finding new web pages by using social networks rather than search. By the end of 2014, Shareaholic reported that "Collectively, the top 8 social networks drove 31.24 percent of overall traffic to sites."

Number one? Facebook with, naturally, Linux. Then, in this order, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And, what to they run? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. It's Linux of course.

In short, the Internet we use today really couldn't exist without Linux.

Why Linux instead of another operating system? Because only Linux combines stability, de facto standardization, high stability and security, and low cost. Ironically, for all the chatter about how "hard" Linux is, it was the perfect operating system to take the Internet from engineers to everyone.

Or, to put it another way: Every Facebook post you make, every YouTube video you watch, every Google search you run, is done on Linux.

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