Video: Linus Torvalds on How to Build a Successful Open Source Project


Linux creator Linus Torvalds took the stage at Open Source Leadership Summit this week to share some of his secrets to success in building one of the world’s largest and most successful open source projects.

After 25 years of development, the Linux kernel last year reached more than 22 million lines of code with more than 5,000 developers from about 500 companies contributing, according to the 2016 Linux Kernel Development Report.

Getting to that point was a matter of evolution through trial and error, not “intelligent design,” Torvalds told Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin, who interviewed him on stage. Kernel developers have built a network of trust within the community that allows for short development cycles and fast iteration as work happens in parallel.

“We have a very strong network and that’s why we can have 1,000 people involved in development,” Torvalds said. “You have a lot of people who have ideas of where things need to go and then you have a marketplace where you can try them out.”

After 25 years of trial and error, the project and the process have evolved to create the software that runs 98 percent of the world’s supercomputers, 75 percent of cloud-enabled enterprises, and most of the global financial markets. Linus created and leads the project, but its success is the result of the entire community’s work.

“I’m a huge believer in the 99 percent perspiration, 1 percent inspiration thing,” Torvalds said.

“The innovation this industry talks about so much is bullshit. Anybody can innovate. Screw that, it’s meaningless,” he said. “99 percent of it is: Get the work done.”

Watch the full conversation, below.

Learn more about open source in the enterprise. Watch more keynote talks from Open Source Leadership Summit 2017. Watch now!