macOS fundamentally built on Linux

The simplest reply is no, as Linux wasn’t even around when it (then known as NextStep) was developed; NextStep shipped, IIRC, in 1987, whereas Linux was founded in 1991.


MacOS is constructed on BSD Unix, a version of Unix based on the Berkeley Software Distribution. It was initially designed in the 1970s and featured a graphical user interface.

BSD and Linux are both adaptations of the original UNIX operating system, however, everything in macOS above the Kernel level is proprietary Apple software, whereas the majority of Linux and BSD versions are totally open source.

Generally, command line applications created for Linux and other UNIX-derived operating systems can be run with minimal modification, whereas a graphical user interface application would require either a complete rewrite or the use of a cross-platform toolkit such as Swing or Qt.

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Today’s macOS is built on NeXTstep, the operating system developed in the 1980s by NeXT Computing. After leaving Apple in 1985, Steve Jobs launched the business NeXT. He founded a new business and employed Avie Tevanian as his director of software development. Jobs invited Tevanian, one of the programmers who designed the BSD Mach kernel at Carnegie Mellon University, to construct a new multitasking operating system based on it.

Tevanian created something that, at the time, surpassed the competition in terms of its usefulness. How was the quality? In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web on a NeXTstation computer running this operating system:

NeXT’s dilemma was that there was no room at the table for another computer hardware manufacturer, especially at the high-end, where the business competed; this amazing software could not operate on a standard 386 with 4 MB of RAM at the time. Eventually, they stopped selling hardware, ported their software to numerous architectures, and floundered until 1996.

In that year, Apple’s in-house effort to design a new, modern operating system failed, and the company chose to purchase one from someone who could get it right. They decided to acquire NeXT’s technology after flirting with Microsoft and BeOS, which had the unintended consequence of bringing Jobs back to Apple.

As Apple’s new director of software development, Tevanian redesigned NeXTstep into Mac OS X. (Leaving out a few portions for brevity, such as Rhapsody, Carbon, Cocoa, etc.)

Therefore, the present Mac operating system is built on a BSD kernel, with a tonne of Apple-specific software running on top of it. You may obtain the Darwin source code for the kernel and other open-source components of macOS, but it is so different from the whole operating system that it cannot even run Mac applications.

Linux was entirely created independently. Since 1983, the GNU userland tools have been under development, but the Linux kernel was not created until 1991, with the first GNU/Linux distributions appearing in 1992. NeXTstep, on the other hand, was released on September 18, 1989, and was already a polished, ready-to-use operating system. Linux-based software did not reach that point for several more years.

Therefore, macOS is not “beautiful Linux.” Both of these operating systems are the result of the laborious efforts of a large number of exceptionally bright individuals, yet they are fully independent of one another.


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