Linux family tree, version 0.90

The latest version of the Linux family tree can always be found at

Linux family tree v0.90

Earlier in the year, I wrote about local artist Mark Alan Miller and said that Mark and I would be collaborating to create a Linux family tree done in a similar style:

And, so, I’ll be posting a few sketches over the coming days, drawing from my recollection (and a bit of Googling) on the history and lineage of the Linux distros—crowdsourcing, as it were, to make sure our depiction is indeed accurate.

Well, the days^Wweeks^Wmonths got away from me, but I finally got around to finishing the first cut. Here, at last, is the Linux family tree, version 0.90 (Graphviz source). Comments very welcome.

A few notes:

  • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
  • References are listed at the end of the Graphviz source. In addition to my own recollection, my primary sources were DistroWatch and Wikipedia.
  • I’m probably missing some distros, particularly the newer ones. Mint, Puppy, Sabayon, PCLinuxOS, Arch, Tiny Core, Zenwalk, Vector, and Damn Small are in the top 20 at DistroWatch, but I’m not familiar enough with them to say whether or not they belong here.
  • The branches are not quite depicted right (e.g., the RHAS node is directly connected to the Red Hat node circa 1994, where it should more properly be an offshoot of the Red Hat trunk sometime in 2001/2002). The point here is to show the relationships, and I’ll be working with Mark to make sure the branches are depicted properly.
  • Some branches, of course, are more divergent than others—for example, the S.u.S.E. branch from Slackware was a complete break, whereas Debian and Ubuntu have an ongoing relationship (and Ubuntu and Kubuntu moreso). We’ll be sure to represent these subtleties as well, perhaps with intertwining branches or some such.
  • Altering the Graphviz output is still a bit of a mystery to me (I put in weight=1000 at some points to force straight lines, which seems to work), and while for the most part the graph is displayed as I would have otherwise envisioned it, I couldn’t get Xandros to display as a straight line to save my life. Any suggestions?

Suggestions? Corrections? Criticisms? Reminiscences? Leave them in the comments or drop me an email.

27 comments on “Linux family tree, version 0.90

  1. Narendra Sisodiya

    Hi, It will be great if you make a SVG image this family tree of Linux. The advantage will be anyone can scale at any zoom and print. I will suggest to host svg image as project on Google Code Project. Many other can join in the project and they can also contribute.

    1. Ian Murdock Post author

      Note that this is largely meant to serve as a guide for Mark and isn’t really intended to be attractive on its own (I’ll be the first to admit it’s rather ugly). Also note that I’m deliberating trying to limit the distros to the most influential ones—including all of them in the final piece would be unwieldy (the others you cite look like they aim to be comprehensive). -ian

  2. Des Dougan

    Very nice!

    You don’t have SME Server (formerly e-smith) listed, which has been going since around 1999. It had RH 7.x as its parent and is now based on CentOS 4.7. Great distro for small businesses.

    1. Ian Murdock Post author

      Ah yes, Stampede should be in there. I’m not sure about the others (I’ve never heard of backtrack or SME Server/e-smith), though Arch has been mentioned twice and is in DistroWatch’s top 20, so maybe it should be too. I’ve been a bit out of the loop the past few years, so I’m not sure what’s considered “influential” these days (that’s the metric I’m using for what gets included—see above comment). I’ve certainly never run across Arch “in the wild”, though that’s admittedly been largely commercial environments the past many years, so it might be nice to include some of the top hobbyist distributions, particularly if they make for a nice profusion of leaf nodes. Opinions welcome. -ian

      1. Bryan Kam

        I’d highly recommend a look at Arch. I’ve just returned to it after two (great) years with Debian. For servers, it can’t compare to Debian’s stability, but for a laptop, I feel like the end result is “mine” rather than Debian’s (you may of course disagree :).

        The package manager (Pacman) is extremely fast and simple to use, and creating new packages is a breeze. It’s a great distro for people who like to run a fast, minimal system, to tinker with configuration, and to run extremely new software.

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  4. Mike

    It would have been hilarious if you had just copyrighted the thing with no Creative Commons and prohibited reproduction. Hehe. I would love to have seen the comments from the Trotskyite Linuxheads.

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  6. Gaston

    Hi, Ian. I look forward to the completion of this project (even when evolution seems unstoppable, that is, there will be new distros all the time). ;-)

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