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The Linux kernel is a monolithic Unix-like computer operating system kernel. The Linux operating system is based on it and deployed on both traditional computer systems such as personal computers and servers, usually in the form of Linux distributions, and on various embedded devices such as routers, wireless access points, PBXes, set-top boxes, FTA receivers, smart TVs, PVRs and NAS appliances. The Android operating system for tablet computers, smartphones and smartwatches is also based atop the Linux kernel. While the adoption on desktop computers is low, Linux-based operating systems dominate nearly every other segment of computing, from mobile devices to mainframes. As of November 2016, all but two of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers run Linux.

Linux kernel
Tux
Tux the penguin, mascot of Linux
Linux 3.0.0 boot.png
Linux kernel 3.0.0 booting
Developer Linus Torvalds and thousands of collaborators
Written in C and assembly
OS family Unix-like
Initial release 0.01
Latest release 4.9
Latest preview 4.9-rc8
Available in English
Kernel type Monolithic
License GNU General Public License, version 2 plus various optional freely redistributable (proprietary) binary blobs
Official website kernel.org

The Linux kernel is a monolithic Unix-like computer operating system kernel. The Linux operating system is based on it and deployed on both traditional computer systems such as personal computers and servers, usually in the form of Linux distributions, and on various embedded devices such as routers, wireless access points, PBXes, set-top boxes, FTA receivers, smart TVs, PVRs and NAS appliances. The Android operating system for tablet computers, smartphones and smartwatches is also based atop the Linux kernel. While the adoption on desktop computers is low, Linux-based operating systems dominate nearly every other segment of computing, from mobile devices to mainframes. As of November 2016, all but two of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers run Linux.

The Linux kernel was conceived and created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds for his personal computer and with no cross-platform intentions, but has since expanded to support a huge array of computer architectures, many more than other operating systems or kernels. Linux rapidly attracted developers and users who adopted it as the kernel for other free software projects, notably the GNU Operating System. The Linux kernel has received contributions from nearly 12,000 programmers from more than 1,200 companies, including some of the largest software and hardware vendors.

The Linux kernel API, the application programming interface (API) through which user programs interact with the kernel, is meant to be very stable and to not break userspace programs (some programs, such as those with GUIs, rely on other APIs as well). As part of the kernel's functionality, device drivers control the hardware; "mainlined" device drivers are also meant to be very stable. However, the interface between the kernel and loadable kernel modules (LKMs), unlike in many other kernels and operating systems, is not meant to be very stable by design.

The Linux kernel, developed by contributors worldwide, is a prominent example of free and open source software. Day-to-day development discussions take place on the Linux kernel mailing list (LKML). The Linux kernel is released under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2), with some firmware images released under various non-free licenses.