Although Fedora was formally unveiled only in September 2004, its origins effectively date back to 1995 when it was launched by two Linux visionaries -- Bob Young and Marc Ewing -- under the name of Red Hat Linux. The company's first product, Red Hat Linux 1.0 "Mother's Day", was released in the same year and was quickly followed by several bug-fix updates. In 1997, Red Hat introduced its revolutionary RPM package management system with dependency resolution and other advanced features which greatly contributed to the distribution's rapid rise in popularity and its overtaking of Slackware Linux as the most widely-used Linux distribution in the world. In later years, Red Hat standardised on a regular, 6-month release schedule.

In 2003, just after the release of Red Hat Linux 9, the company introduced some radical changes to its product line-up. It retained the Red Hat trademark for its commercial products, notably Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and introduced Fedora Core, a Red Hat-sponsored, but community-oriented distribution designed for the "Linux hobbyist". After the initial criticism of the changes, the Linux community accepted the "new" distribution as a logical continuation of Red Hat Linux. A few quality releases was all it took for Fedora to regain its former status as one of the best-loved operating systems on the market. At the same time, Red Hat quickly became the biggest and most profitable Linux company in the world, with an innovative product line-up and other interesting initiatives, such as its Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification programme.

Although Fedora's direction is still largely controlled by Red Hat, Inc. and the product is sometimes seen -- rightly or wrongly -- as a test bed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there is no denying that Fedora is one of the most innovative distributions available today. Its contributions to the Linux kernel, glibc and GCC are well-known and its more recent integration of SELinux functionality, Xen virtualisation technologies and other enterprise-level features are much appreciated among the company's customers. On a negative side, Fedora still lacks a clear desktop-oriented strategy that would make the product easier to use for those beyond the "Linux hobbyist" target.

  • Pros: Highly innovative; outstanding security features; large number of supported packages; strict adherence to the Free Software philosophy
  • Cons: Fedora's priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop usability
  • Software package management: YUM graphical and command line utility using RPM packages
  • Available editions: Fedora for 32-bit (i386), 64-bit (x86_64) and PowerPC (ppc) processors; Red Hat Enterprise Linux for i386, IA64, PowerPC, s390x and x86_64 architectures; also live CD editions with either GNOME or KDE
  • Suggested Fedora-based alternatives: BLAG Linux And GNU (desktop, free software), Berry Linux (live CD), Yellow Dog Linux (Apple's PowerPC-based systems)
  • Suggested Red Hat-based alternatives: CentOS, Scientific Linux, StartCom Enterprise Linux

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updated: 01.11.2010

released: 01.11.2010