Recently, there has been a fair amount of talk regarding Linus
Torvalds' apparant inability to manage the volume of patch submissions to the Linux kernel. This has been discussed
by kernel people and by some
parts of the Internet community.
A very funny thing has happened in these discussions (or if it didn't happen, it has definitely come to light).
Somewhere along the way, people started referring to Linux as Linus' property. From this comment: Of course Linus has every right in the
world to remain the status quo, even if it damages Linux. After all Linux is his baby and he can do with it what he
likes. I agree with part of this statement; I disagree with the justification. Linus is free to do whatever he
wants but it is not because it is his baby. He is free to do whatever he wants with the kernel because 1) it is
distributed under the GPL and 2) the Linux kernel community is willing to follow him.
Since the first of these points is self-protecting and will not be going away anytime soon, I'm interested in point
number two: the Linux kernel community is willing to follow him. Here, I'll investigate three possibilities. I
don't claim that these are exhaustive.
All three of these scenarios have assumed that Torvalds won't work with the community to make improvements (or changes,
if you prefer). There are other possibilities for more cooperative solutions but monarchs don't tend to give up
authority very easily. Perhaps the Linux kernel does not need an overthrow; it just needs its Magna Carta.
- This first possibility is based on the fact that more and more companies are making Linux part of their business
strategy. This being the case, these companies may not be very happy with a one man show being both a bottleneck to
improvements and a single point of failure.
What action(s) might these businesses take? One possibility is that they would work together and form an open consortium
to act as kernel maintainer. This would have the benefits of stability and openness  but it would likely suffer from
a "design by committee" mentality.
Certain individual businesses, like IBM, could certainly take over the whole task of kernel maintenance themselves but it
is most unlikely they would even attempt to do so. Such corporate "participation" in the kernel would not be very well
received by many individual end-users. However, on the other side, corporate clients might find many benefits in saying
that they are using something "made" by Big Blue.
I highly doubt either of these options will ever see the light of day. However, the consortium possibility is
intriguing. It would be even more so (and more acceptable to me) if it included both big name companies and various
individuals from the already existing kernel community (but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Torvalds to be among
The second possibility is that a small, highly motivated group of people will start a kernel fork of their own, just
for the fun and interest of it. They won't have any desire to become dominant figures in the Open Source community.
They'll just want to have fun. And then, at some point, some outsiders will take note of their project and think, "hey,
I think I'll try that out." Having tried it out and like it, these individuals will send it off to a few friends and all
of a sudden, a new kernel player will emerge.
Is this very likely? No. But given enough time, even unlikely things become possible.
- The last possibility, and the most likely, is that the status quo will remain ... for the time being. Perhaps the
position will become hereditary, who knows? At some point, Torvalds will have to pass the torch on. This might be
because of a coup d'etat or because of retirement. Either way, I think I would pay for a front row seat to that show.
 This might be a different sort of "open" then "Open Source". However, it should include the "Open Source" sense as