"The Future Is Open Source Everything" - A Mis-attribution

Linus Torvalds

According to Wikipedia, Linus Torvalds once said "The future is open-source everything". However the original link from that page is broken. Thanks to some investigation by John Vanderberg, the original quote was placed in the page January 2005, by Stirling Newberry. One can also find the quote in several books including Matt Mason's The Pirate's Dilemma, 2008., Prasidh Mishra's Managing Electronic Resources, 2011., Steven Heller and David Womack's Becoming a Digital Designer, 2011., among many others. Even Cambridge University publishes the remark.

However, try as I might I could not find an original source for the quotation. Keith Curtis, who included the quote in After the Software Wars, 2009., readily admitted to me that he "didn't bother to always find original sources for many quotes". So did Linus Torvalds actually say this or not?

As he often does, albeit with a slight element of surprise for many attendees, Linus Torvalds attended Linux Conf AU. I caught up with him after the presentation Dirk Hondel on developing a subsurface diving log. As is well known, if you actually have sensible to say, Mr. Tolvards is quite approachable. So I asked him whether he made such a remark. After all, one should go a primary source whenever possible.

At first Linus was bemused and cheerfully evasive, suggesting that such a comment may have been said as a flippiant remark. But he stopped and considered the quotation more deeply. "No, that really doesn't sound like something I would say" (yes, I am paraphrasing). This rejection concurs with Linus' message on the linux-kernel mailing list on 2004: "Anybody who tells me I can't use a program because it's not open source, go suck on rms. I'm not interested. 99% of that I run tends to be open source, but that's my choice, dammit."

So in lieu of further evidence, it should be said that the quote is a misattribution - and even if it is unearthed that Linus did say it, as of Friday, February 1st, 2013 he is rejecting the remark. Further publications should reflect this. For my own part, I'm making an appropriate edit on Wikipedia.