Linux Version Dilemma: Linus Torvalds is “Running Out of Fingers and Toes”


Linus Torvalds, creator and curator of the Linux kernel, has a quandary on his hands: Should he stick to Linux’s long-time tradition of massive, multple-decimal-point version numbers, or should he abandon them in favor of shorter, more easily distinguishable major versions?

The problem at hand is the imminent arrival of Linux 3.20. Unlike most major pieces of software, a new version of the Linux kernel is released every 10 weeks or so. In some cases, developers simply bump the major version number every time there’s a big release, which is why we’re now up to Chrome 40 and Firefox 35. The Linux kernel, however, has historically opted for a “conventional” scheme, which resulted in some incredibly long-winded version numbers such as

Back in 2011, with the release of Linux 3.0, Torvalds said those “2.6.<bignum>” days were over—and now here we are, a few weeks away from the release of Linux 3.20, and it seems we’re on the cusp of the Linux kernel assuming a much simpler version scheme. “I’m once more close to running out of fingers and toes,” muses Torvalds, before going on to suggest that it might be time to skip 3.20 and jump straight to 4.0. In a poll attached to Torvalds’ Google+ post, which had more than 24,000 votes at the time of publishing, 54% were in favor of 4.0.

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