Random Thoughts by Fabien Penso

15 years ago, I founded LinuxFr

Note aux Francophones: ce billet a été traduit et posté sur ce journal linuxfr. Merci à Patrick.

1998, Internet grows quicker than anyone expects. I’m 19 years old and still live at my parent’s house, hang out on IRC, use FTP to download, and run Linux for fun. I’m a complete geek.

I decide to create a website, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I don’t know if I want something closer to FreshMeat or Slashdot, but I buy a domain name anyway. I hang out on #Linuxfr, an IRC channel, and decide linuxfr.org would be a nice DNS. Its first whois description is “Utilisateurs débiles de Linux” which translates to something like Stupid Linux Users. We kept this for years.

The first server hosting the website is a 486DX4 100Mhz with open case, under my feet, at my employer’s office. It then later moves to a paid hosting and when the site becomes popular, we’ll never have to pay anymore1.

What I don’t know at the time is I will be spending literally hours per day in the following years running the website, writing code from mod_perl to PHP2. I’ll even write a template language Templeet with my friend Pascal Courtois, or implement a Karma Score3 trying to lower the noise from annoying users.

Time involved on the website, and dedication from many core users wasn’t wasted. It ended up being one of the biggest website in France, with over 40 millions hits per month. Most website never reach this audience and even as of today it still does close to 1 million hits per day. It became the French most popular website about Free Software, and almost won the Linux Readers’ Choice Awards in 20034.

While I use Debian on all my servers, my focus isn’t on Linux nor Free Software anymore. As most of the Silicon Valley geeks, I moved to Apple for my desktop, and I now develop iOS applications5. Free Software evangelists will say I sold my soul to the Devil but I have to confess doing iOS is one of the most fun I had in my career.

I made LinuxFr as a non profit project. I’m proud it still runs today, with a great team of Engineers and still as a non profit. Friends helped on the way in the first years: Laurent Vallar, Fabien Seisen, Yann Hirou and others I forget mentioning. Like me, they all took their paths, and if you still visit LinuxFr you should thank the current team and contributors.

15 years ago I founded LinuxFr, and oh my I’m glad my HTML skills improved since6.

If you liked this post, drop me a note at @fabienpenso. If you didn’t, drop me a note anyway telling me how to improve it.

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Thanks for reading.

  1. See a nice history Bruno have put together

  2. You still can find daCode, an old PHP CMS I wrote. 

  3. This karma score has pissed a lot of users but in the end, it did lower the noise. 

  4. The Linux Journal kicked us out from the contest the following years. 

  5. I released Push4, and Liker. I contracted for clients on Urban trip and VU’

  6. See the first HTML page I wrote for LinuxFr. Not my best.