February 09, 2001, 9:55 AM — I've wanted to interview Linus Torvalds for some time, but with the holiday season,
his new baby, and the release of 2.4 already on his plate, I knew my chances were
slim at best. Timing is everything, it seems. Now that things are somewhat back
to "normal," whatever that is, I tried a direct approach and appealed
to his finer instincts. I've owed him a beer for almost 2 years now, so I offered
him a case of Guinness in exchange for an interview. It worked.
LinuxWorld.com: After predicting that you would pass the kernel development
baton to Alan Cox this year, I read an interview of yours in which you put that
notion to rest, attributing such speculation to people mistaking your humor
for burnout. I admit that's where I went wrong. But along the same line, is
there any sort of plan for how Linux kernel development would proceed if you
were kidnapped by aliens from outer space, or otherwise became unavailable?
Linus Torvalds: Oh, there's a lot of confusion here, probably because a lot
of people get so hung up about "ownership transfer," when I personally
don't think such a notion even exists in Linux.
I will hand over the baton to Alan Cox this year, the same way I did for 2.0.x
and 2.2.x -- he's really good at maintaining the stable kernels, he seems to
enjoy it, and people trust him.
My handing 2.4.x over to Alan Cox doesn't mean that I step down -- it's just
me knowing that what I like most is the development kernels, and while I revel
in 2.5.x with new features, etc., I don't have the time or the inclination to
also maintain the stable kernel at the same time.
This, I think, is what people have a hard time realizing. It's not about one
person, and I've never done everything (well, strictly speaking I did do everything
in Linux during most of 1991, but I got out of that "Linus is in charge
of everything" mentality at the first moment I humanly could).
So I'm likely to never "pass the baton" in the way people expect
-- I'm not the CEO (chief executive officer) who gives up leadership. I'm more
the technical lead who concentrates on one thing, and it has just happened to
be the most visible thing. The way the leadership has evolved, and will continue
to evolve, is that others handle other issues -- to the point where I'm already
just one of many. I'm just the most visible one, and the one whose decisions
most people tend to respect.
LinuxWorld.com: What do you most want to see in the next major release of Linux,