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While they may look different from the outset, Linux and ChromeOS are actually very similar. This is because they share a kernel — the part of the operating system that interfaces with the internal computer components.

That’s right! ChromeOS is based on a Linux Kernel. Thus, ChromeOS takes a lot of its ideology from Linux. It makes sense that they chose this kernel when developing the operating system.

Let’s compare these two operating systems to give you the full picture.

Linux vs. ChromeOS: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Release DateJune 15, 2011September 17, 1991
KernelLinux (Debian)Linux (Various)
Source Code AvailabilityOpenOpen
Current Distribution VersionChromeOS 87 DesktopDebian Version 11
Marketing FocusProductivityVarious

Linux vs. ChromeOS: What’s the Difference?

Linux and ChromeOS are both very similar and very different. While they share a Kernel, they have different design manifestos, and the systems’ handling is very different on a corporate level.

Let’s take a look at the differences between Linux and ChromeOS on a deeper level.

Linux Design Manifesto

One of the main places where Linux distributions and ChromeOS differ is in their design manifestos. Linux’s design manifesto was first published in an interview between developer, Linus Torvalds, and Boot Magazine. Torvalds stated that he wanted to be able to use someone else’s operating system and be happy with it, but that no market operating systems offered the features he wanted to see in his operating system.

Torvalds goes on to say that as a student of modest means, he had no choice but to choose between the DOS operating system, which was very bare bones and didn’t have many modern features like graphical interfaces, and other “real” operating systems like Unix, which were out of his budget. So, as a person who describes himself as “the best programmer in the world,” he sought to do better by developing his own operating system with all the features he wanted.

More than that, he decided to make Linux a completely open-source project. He states that some people believed that giving away his operating system for free had to do with the rise of communism, but stated that the decision to make Linux a free and open-source operating system was more about allowing people to customize their interface and operating system to suit their individual needs.

Torvalds went on to say that his operating system wasn’t founded on the principle of making money; it was founded on the principle of stability and customization. While he doesn’t think Microsoft and other operating system developers are “evil,” he thinks they’re more concerned with making money than making a good product.

Linux being open-source also opened up the creation of alternative Linux distributions. The most common distributions used right now are Debian, Fedora Linux, and Ubuntu. But, anyone can make their own Linux distribution using the kernel, which is open-source.

ChromeOS Design Manifesto

ChromeOS uses a very similar design manifesto to Linux. However, they’re a little bit less self-centered, perhaps because the original release was developed by a team rather than a single person. ChromeOS is designed around a system where everyone can access their files to support stability and give the most control to its users.

ChromeOS’s design manifesto was primarily published on the Google Blog in the post titled The Meaning of Open, which details their commitment to open-source development and why. Google states that its teams have committed to improving the internet’s library of information by publicly posting its source code and projects.

This manifesto differs from Windows, which has a partially open-source operating system, and macOS, which is entirely closed-source. However, ChromeOS is seen on every level by thousands of eyes daily, just like Linux, and the operating system offers a lot of customizability, stability, and security options because of it.

ChromeOS’s design is almost exclusively focused on productivity. This is one design feature that is different between Linux and ChromeOS. Linux is meant to be a catch-all operating system that packages together personal, workforce, and leisure features. While ChromeOS has some personal and leisure elements, these axes are supported mainly by the system’s Android app integration rather than the ChromeOS development team’s efforts.

Productivity Features in ChromeOS

Productivity features in ChromeOS are much more comprehensive than most Linux distributions. While most Linux distributions feature basic productivity features, productivity is a core focus and primary tenet of the ChromeOS operating system.

ChromeOS features a system of “multiple desks,” allowing users to create multiple instances of desktops featuring different programs. This feature is meant to assist users in organizing their projects by keeping various projects on different desks.

ChromeOS also features advanced remote desktop access, allowing users to access more computers than their own and work together more effectively to squash bugs that they rub up against.

Productivity Features in Linux

Productivity is not a core tenet of the original Linux distributions. However, more recent distributions of Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora Linux have included productivity features that allow them to compete with other operating systems on that axis.

The thing with Linux and productivity is that Linux really encourages you to build your own productivity tools. As a result, you can find just about any productivity tool in existence for Linux because, if you’ve thought of it, someone better at programming than you definitely also thought of it.

Linux is very focused on providing users with the means to build their own tools rather than providing the tools. Thus, realistically, if you have a Linux machine, you’ll need to focus on either learning to program your own tools or finding someone who can program them for you. Luckily, the primary user base of Linux is tech geeks who are more than happy to build products and share them amongst themselves.

Furthermore, like Linux, they tend to believe in open-source software. So, it’s generally pretty easy to find the same tools you’re used to on other operating systems. You just have to go find them, unlike ChromeOS, which packages them into the operating system.

linux distros for macbook pro
Linux encourages you to build your own tools, so ChromeOS may be best for you if you’re not a programmer.

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Linux vs. ChromeOS: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Linux is named after Linus Torvalds.
  • ChromeOS uses a Debian Linux kernel.
  • Linux supports multiple distributions, though Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora Linux are principal distributions.
  • Linux is the name of the operating system kernel; the actual operating system is the distribution.
  • ChromeOS is currently more popular than Linux.

Linux vs. ChromeOS: Which One Should I Choose?

It’s straightforward to choose between Linux and ChromeOS. Are you a regular person who doesn’t know how to program all your tools? ChromeOS is probably a better choice, then. ChromeOS is basically better for anyone who isn’t a programmer because most Linux distributions are designed by and for programmers.

Linux distributions run into a lot of issues with their compatibility with apps and the need to be able to program to get the most out of the operating system. However, if you’re not super concerned with app compatibility, don’t play video games, and really only need a personal computer, learn Linux and pick up one of the principal distributions. It’s genuinely one of the most stable and consumer-friendly kernels on which to base an operating system.

Final Thoughts

Linux and ChromeOS may be different animals, but they share many similarities because ChromeOS is based on the Linux Kernel. It’s important to remember that, while Linux distributions remain an underdog in the computer world, they’re ideal for people with a lot of tech knowledge.

So, suppose you’re interested in learning more about the inner workings of computer software. In that case, a Linux distribution is an ideal pickup for your goals. Furthermore, since most Linux distributions are free and don’t require any proprietary hardware, you can dual-boot Linux on most PCs.

Linux vs. ChromeOS: Major Differences Explained FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is ChromeOS a Linux distribution?

Most Linux users consider ChromeOS to be a Linux distribution. An unusual one, perhaps, but it is definitely based on the Linux kernel, making it a Linux distribution by definition.

What are the most common Linux distributions?

The most common Linux distributions are Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora Linux.

What is Linux?

Linux refers to the Linux kernel, a free and open-source operating system kernel developed by Linus Torvalds. Linux does not actually refer to any specific Linux distribution operating system, just the Kernel.

What are the most common Linux distributions?

The most common Linux distributions are Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora Linux.

Is ChromeOS free?

ChromeOS Flex is the free distribution of ChromeOS that can be run on non-proprietary hardware.

Is Linux free?

Most Linux distributions are free. Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora Linux can all be downloaded from their websites for free.

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More from History-Computer

  • Boot Magazine Available here: http://fringe.davesource.com/Fringe/Computers/Linux/Manifesto.txt
  • Digital Manifesto Available here: https://www.digitalmanifesto.net/manifestos/140/
  • Google Available here: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of-open.html
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ChromeOS
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux
  • Google Available here: https://chromeos.dev/en/productivity