Mind Map of Linux - Version 1

April 14, 2006
Mind mapping is the process of creating a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central keyword or idea. I have created a mindmap of Linux to get a visual idea of the number of Linux distributions out there and their relationships with each other. There are umpteen GNU/Linux distributions and then some more. Many claim their roots in Debian and others in Red Hat. Still others swear that they are unique and were created from grounds up. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a picture which gave a broad idea of the roots of each GNU/Linux distributions? Well look no further. Here is a mind map of almost all GNU/Linux distributions (atleast the mainstream ones). Though there is a good chance that I could have missed some. The mind map below shows the relations between different GNU/Linux distributions.

Fig: Mind map of GNU/Linux distributions and their relations.
(Click on the mind map to enlarge)

Update: Mind Map of Linux Distributions Version 2 released!!


  • BlackRX

    Thanks for the diagram! It is very helpful.

  • Very nice, thanks for this, will be useful in explaining to people where it all fits in. I wonder should you add a section for mainly server oriented distros? Slamp for instance? Maybe add Zenwalk under slackware small ones? And what about the wonderfully eccentric elive under Debian? It might be also worth adding the BSD tree - there are not a lot of them, so as to fit in PCBSD and Desktop BSD

    But I'm sure everyone will have their own additions - the main thing is how useful it is to have one pre-done.

  • Missing some connections. DSL is based on Debian, and should link from there. Similarly Slax from Slackware. And SuSE and Mandriva both share some origins with Red Hat (RPM-based), so there should be some link there.

    And I don't see GoboLinux--that's sufficiently different from the others to be worth mentioning, I think.

    Lawrence D'Oliveiro

  • Hi

    Nice diagram - something like this is long time a coming. However I wonder if the diagram could be better organised. I would have draw it as a dendrogram (example). In fact if one built a matrix of shared properties, one could stick it into an app like clustalw and it would resolve the tree of relationships for you. The outputs could then be stuck into a program like TreeView to render the tree as a graphic.

    Great stuff you have done here anyway!



  • Hi Ravi,

    Very nice diagram you did. DistroWatch has a database like information on how “independent” is a determined distro, but having this information visually like on this diagram you made is much nicer.
    But I have some comments regarding to it.
    —You should point out that Mandriva was once derived from Red Hat, but through it's evolution it changed so much that could be now considered an independent distro.
    —nUbuntu is not a distro anymore. Canonical asked them to terminate it's distro, because it could affect their reputation. Read about it at: http://digg.com/linux_unix/Canonical_has_asked_for_nUbuntu_to_Cease_Develop
    —Linspire was based on Debian, although I'm not sure from which branch of it (I think it was the testing one).

  • Slackware is derived from SLS

  • OK, as a current generation map it looks fairly good, though Linspire is a Debian derivative, as is Xandros (which I didn't see on your map, but I may have missed it). What it lacks is the historical perspective. Historically, SuSE is a Slackware derivative and Madriva is a Red Hat derivative.

    James Dixon

  • I thought Linspire was based on Debian. I know when I used it a couple years ago I could use apt-get to install software, as an alternative to their click-n-run warehouse. But maybe they've just changed so much since then that they don't resemble Debian at all now...

  • Ravi

    I could link multiple nodes together like slax getting linked from small linux distributions and also from slackware. But it might clutter the map. So I chose to list them seperately.

    Carlos, you are right. Mandriva was once derived from redhat. But as I said earlier I have to figure out how to cram all this info without cluttering the map. My main aim was to make sure the end result was not cluttered that no one could make sense of it.
    I heard that the link you provided on nUbuntu was an april fools joke :). AFAIK, nUbuntu is alive and kicking.

    I have included Xandros as a debian derivative.

    You are right on Linspire. But hasn't the project evolved so much that there is little semblance with the original Debian ? That is why I listed it seperately. So also with Mandriva and SuSE.

    But not to worry, I might update the map as I get more inputs. :)

    Thanks for all your inputs.

  • voroskoi

    As a frugalware developer i'm happy that fw is on your list, but here is my bug report:

    Frugalware is based on slackware, its name was slackware+ in early stage. Then vmiklos added pacman to it. So frugalware actually slackware based and nothing to do with archlinux except pacman.

    Have a nice day!

  • Nice tree! :)

    just one comment: Coyote Linux has already a fork, the BrazilFW.


  • Foresight is not a derivative of Fedora at all. It is a derivative of rPath, which is its own distro built from scratch.

  • Very nice map. Thanks!

    Another organizition trick for the specialty distros (security, small size) might be to link the distro from it's parent but "tag" them. So for example, Auditor would link off of Knoppix, but would be tagged "security". You could also color-code based on tags. (I friend of mine is red/green colorblind, though, so he'd hate that I said that :)

  • jayKayEss

    I believe that SuSE descended from Slackware, and RPM was merely added in later:


    Pretty cool map though!

  • Kororaa uses a script to automate much of the Gentoo install and also some pre-defined desktop packages. It makes installation easier than Gentoo. The XGL liveCD is based off of Kororaa and created by one of the devs, but is not the Kororaa distribution.

    There is also Jackass! linux, based off of Gentoo, which uses a more updated toolchain. It's a small project so I don't know if you would want to add it (http://jackass.homelinux.org).

  • You left out yggdrasil, which was the first linux distribution I ever used. One of the earliest ones, to be sure.

  • The current version of Mepis in testing is based off Ubuntu.

  • This is a nice start, but alot of history is missing as well as alot of distributions. Do some research and finish this project ;)

  • Acid Zebra

    "almost all GNU/Linux distributions (atleast the mainstream ones)"

    Which is it, almost all or all the mainstream of almost all the mainstream?

    At any rate its a fairly decent representation of current mainstream distro's; but the full gamut of specialised linux distros (both current and historical) defies a simple map like this. And of course linux (the kernel, not the whole kaGNUdle) belongs to a much larger family: http://www.levenez.com/unix/

    Incidentally, this map I linked to could also be used to map the rise, splitoffs and falls of the various distro's over the years. Better than this mindmap model I think.

  • Acid Zebra

    ps. Fedora Core did not spawn Red Hat, RHL's been around long before fedora was brought to live. And Mandriva as others have pointed out stems from Mandrake stems from Red Hat.

  • "—nUbuntu is not a distro anymore. Canonical asked them to terminate it's distro, because it could affect their reputation. Read about it at: http://digg.com/linux_unix/Canonical_has_asked_for_nUbuntu_to_Cease_Develop"

    Dude, that was an April Fools Day joke.

    From nubuntu.com:

    "As Proof Ill! Ok So it was a Joke :-)
    Okay, firstly to anyone who I may have upset :-) I am sorry and to those who had a laugh, fell for it, and downloaded it before it was "removed". Thank you to those who dugg our story and helped it make the frontpage. For those who would like to see here is a screenshot of digg.com. How about a screenshot of our lovely pink site.

    And of course, I would like to thank those who emailed and wanted to help support nUbuntu through this terrible time :-). I have uploaded those who have emailed me, and anymore that come in, I shall share with the world. They are here for you all to read. Also as proof ill is an anagram of april fools :-)

    Thanks for all being good sports and playing along ;-) but for the sakes of tradition of April 1st...

    April Fools!

    Note: Beware of next year :-)"

  • Yoper is missing on your LFS tree. Yoper is using Linux from scratch as a base.

  • Excellent work! I look forward to the next iteration of this (please be inspired to create one!).

    Might I recommend a different format that lends itself to better compression of homogeneous color areas? GIF, perhaps, is a better alternative. PNG would be ideal.

    Thanks for your work!

  • Isn't Nubuntu an April Fool's Joke?

  • sami

    nice diagram. it might further help if Redhat, Mandriva, Suse are clubbed under "RPM based distributions." i see gnu/linux distributions to be primarily of 4 types:
    1. RPM based - fedora, mandriva, suse etc
    2. Debian based - ubuntu, mepis, knoppix etc
    3. Slackware based - zenwalk, slax etc
    4. Gentoo based - kororaa etc

    then there are small distros, network or security related ones etc.

  • Mythus

    Nice, very good for a overview.

    But isn't all right.

    - Red Hat came first, later became two forks: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise. Yellow Dog came from this first "Red Hat".

    - Mandrake came from Red Hat (that old one), merged with Conectiva (also from RH) and became Mandriva.

  • Great idea, but as has been pointed out, there's a few things that are a little bit topsy turvy.

    - Red Hat came first, fedora clearly came from Red Hat.
    - Mandrake+Suse came from Red Hat
    - Arch Linux is inspired by many, but based on no other distro. It ought to be in a category of it's own. There is no LFS in the foundations of Arch Linux.
    - Frugalware is slackware + pacman.

  • Nice work.
    But not everything connects right.

    Mandriva (formerly known as Mandrake) was based on Red Hat.

    Mepis is based on Ubuntu these days.

    ArchLinux' core is actually based on CRUX.

    Kororaa has a live CD, but actually it's just a normal Gentoo-based distribution. They made the live CD afterwards.

  • Mepis is derived from kubuntu nowadays

  • andriesb

    Thanks for this mindmap. Distrowatch ( http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=independence ) has a lot of distro info as well.

  • Don't forget RedFlag and some other asian distributions (Like asia linux and nigata linux).

  • Sebastian

    Linspire should be linked with Debian.
    From Slackware you should derive Slax, and from Slax, DNALinux and other Slax based live distros.

  • claudiomet

    Look at this timeline, thiis correct http://img58.imageshack.us/img58/9449/lineadeltiempolinuxdistros5rt.jpg

  • Linspire may have evolved such that they're no longer reliant on Debian, or have users familiar with apt-get / dpkgs, but I'm pretty sure a) the relation once existed and b) it still uses much of the same technology under the hood, ie dpkg etc. Linspire is currently considering some techniques for selling software to Ubuntu users, like mp3 players and other non-free (in the most common sense) packages, so I think for all the glue and eyecandy placed on top of it, Linspire is still Debian derived.

    So I think a mind-mapping of distros should likely involve this link. Of course, many of the distros cant be represented as a simple tree; someone suggested that SuSe was slackware plus RPM added in later.

  • Gosh! I'm so embarrassed! How could I be tricked on April's fools news (about the nUbuntu). Thanks for everyone who pointed this out for me.
    BTW, that's the first time I get tricked on something like this. Damn you Digg. :-D

  • Also VLOS or Vidalinux is derived from Gentoo. One of its few off shoots.

  • Just a little bug:
    Auditor has been renamed to BackTrack (after merging with Whax).

    Anyway: Great work, waiting for ver 0.2 :)))

  • where is trustix (even though it's small and not really famous but has a working community)? should be connected to debian, i guess...

  • Great illustration.

    Any chance you could update it or release it publicly for someone else to maintain?


  • Nice diagram, thanks.

  • CelloFellow

    Here's a link to some small modifications:


    Linspire recently switched to an Ubuntu base, and Mepis did a while ago. You also forgot Xubuntu.

    Besides that, I love the diagram. Cheers.