Ubuntu was conceived in 2004 by Mark Shuttleworth, a successful South African entrepreneur, and his company Canonical. Shuttleworth recognized the power of Linux and open source, but was also aware of weaknesses that
prevented mainstream use.
Shuttleworth set out with clear intentions to address these weaknesses and create a system that was easy to use, completely free, and could compete with other mainstream operating systems. With the Debian system as a base, Shuttleworth began to build Ubuntu. Using his own funds at first, installation cds were pressed and shipped worldwide at no cost to the recipients. Ubuntu spread quickly, its community grew rapidly, and soon Ubuntu became the most popular Linux distribution available.
With more people working on the project than ever before, its core features and hardware support continue to improve, and Ubuntu has gained the attention of large organizations worldwide.
While large organizations often find it useful to pay for support services, Shuttleworth has promised that the Ubuntu desktop operating system will always be free. Ubuntu is installed on an estimated 2% of the world’s computers. This equates to tens of millions of users worldwide, and is growing each year. As there is no compulsory registration, the percentage of Ubuntu users should be treated as an estimate.