Editor’s note: Thank you to returning contributor Matthew Higgins for these reflections on what the return and preservation of Linux Journal means.
As we welcome the return of Linux Journal, it’s worth recognizing the impact of the September 22nd announcement of the magazine’s return and how it sparked many feelings of nostalgia and excitement in thousands among the Linux community. That being said, it is also worth noting that the ways in which journalism has changed since Linux Journal’s first publication in 1994. The number of printed magazines have significantly decreased and exclusively digitally published content has become the norm in most cases. Linux Journal experienced this change in 2011 when the print version of the magazine was discontinued. Although many resented the change, it is far from the only magazine that embraced this trend. Despite the bitterness by some, embracing the digital version of Linux Journal allowed for its writers and publishers to direct their focus on taking full advantage of what the internet had to offer.
Despite several advantages of an online publishing format, one concern that was becoming increasingly concerning for Linux Journal until September 22nd, 2020 was the survival of the Linux Journal website. If the website were to have shut down, the community would have potentially lost access to hundreds (or thousands) of articles and documents that were only published on the Linux Journal website and were not collectively available anywhere else. Even if an individual possessed the archive of the monthly issues of the journal, an attempt to republish it would be potentially legally problematic and would certainly show a lack of consideration for the rights of the authors who originally wrote the articles.
Thanks to Slashdot Media, however, the Linux community no longer needs to express concern over the potential loss of the official Linux Journal archive of publications for the foreseeable future. Given its recent return, it seems like an appropriate time to emphasize the important role that Linux Journal played (and will continue to play) in the Linux community since 1994 and the opportunity to continue this role as the number of Linux users and enthusiasts continues to grow. The journal provides readers with access to several decades of articles and content that date back to the earliest days of Linux. Furthermore, Linux Journal preserves this content as an archive that tells a fascinating history of the kernel and the community built around it.
Linux Journal possesses a reputation for publishing a variety of accessible and reliable content . The comprehensive preservation of the oldest Linux-themed magazine or journal allows readers access to an archive that presents what is arguably the most comprehensive printed history of Linux existing in a single location. The first issue of Linux Journal aligns perfectly (down to the month) with the release of Linux 1.0, or the first version of Linux where Linus Torvalds indicates that Linux “can [officially] be used for real work.” Although the magazine does not necessarily represent the earliest Beta versions of Linux, it aligns very closely with the earliest acknowledgment of what some would refer to as the professional use of Linux. There is no other news source that can provide such an insight into the earliest days of the Linux community.
Perhaps the most important contributor to Linux Journal becoming such an iconic part of the Linux community is the people that stood and continue to stand behind it. The countless readers who supported the journal for what is slowly approaching three decades, those who wrote articles for the monthly issues or the website, and last but not least, those who work behind the scenes to ensure that Linux Journal continues to exist, all contribute to a special part of the Linux community. All of these people contributed to Linux Journal because of their shared passion for Linux, perhaps open-source software, and the general advancement of technology. The journal never has nor is it ever likely to be a platform that is maintained for the primary goal of financial profit. Those who worked on the journal in any capacity did so as a labor of love. In other words, the journal does not only represent a thorough history of Linux, but it also serves as a representation of the passion and enthusiasm that exists within the Linux community.
In 2020, Linux is more powerful, more frequently used, and better supported than ever. Linux has come so far that Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft who is notoriously known among Linux users as the man who referred to Linux as “a cancer,” experienced a change of heart and expressed his admiration for Linux. In other words, Hell has indeed frozen over. That being said, Linux, like most things in life, still has room to improve. Therefore, the conversations on how to use Linux, how to improve Linux, or the ever-changing Linux community are not over (nor will they be any time soon.) Therefore, Linux still needs an accessible, reputable, and inclusive platform where these conversations can take place. Given the iconic reputation of Linux Journal, there is no better source to continue promoting and publishing content related to these matters for both new and experienced Linux users alike.