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What is FreeBSD?

Robert Grimmick
Robert Grimmick

FreeBSD® is a free and open source computer operating system. The operating system has its roots in a project started in the 1970s at the University of California, Berkeley. It is a UNIX-like operating system that has similarities with other platforms like Linux. Advanced networking features and a reputation for reliability have contributed to the popularity of this operating system in enterprise and web hosting environments.

The FreeBSD® operating system has no restrictions, and can be modified, copied, and redistributed however the user sees fit. It is also available to download free of charge. The source code to the operating system is included, and advanced users or developers can modify it to suit their needs. Code from the project has been used in a variety of ways, including in consumer electronics devices and in Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Unlike commercial operating systems, FreeBSD® is developed and maintained by individuals all over the world. A core team oversees and influences the overall direction of the project, but independent developers can contribute ideas, code, and bug fixes. Many of those who have contributed to the operating system and its included applications are volunteers.

The project that eventually became FreeBSD® had its origins in UNIX®, a computer operating system originally created by AT&T in 1969. Researchers and students at Berkeley built upon AT&T’s work and began distributing a UNIX® derivative known as the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) in the late 1970s. BSD later became the basis for a family of operating systems, including 386BSD, an early attempt to get a UNIX-type operating system working on Intel processors. Initially intended as a set of patches to 386BSD, FreeBSD® quickly became an operating system in its own right.

Since UNIX® is a trademarked term, platforms based on BSD cannot legally use the name. Instead, they are known as “UNIX-like operating systems,” indicating their similarities to the “official” UNIX® platform. There are a number of other UNIX-like operating systems, including Linux and other variants of BSD. The similarities between these platforms mean that FreeBSD® can often run applications meant for other operating systems.

FreeBSD® is highly regarded for its networking capabilities. The operating system includes of a number of network utilities, and can be set up for server duties or even to act as a router or firewall. The platform is also popular in web hosting environments because its multitasking capabilities and network features allow for many simultaneous connections.

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