from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Debian GNU / Linux logo
Screenshot of Debian GNU / Linux 10 "Buster"
Debian GNU / Linux 10 “Buster” with MATE
developer The Debian Project
License (s) DFSG compliant licenses
First publ. 1993
Current  version 10.5 "Buster" (August 1, 2020)
Kernel Linux and formerly FreeBSD
ancestry GNU / Linux
↳ Debian GNU / Linux
Architecture (s) ARM EABI , MIPS , MIPSel , PowerPC , S / 390 (32 and 64 Bit), SPARC , x86 or i386 (32 Bit), x86-64 (64 Bit)
Installation medium CD , DVD , Blu-ray Disc , USB memory stick , computer network
Languages) multilingual
sejnfjrq6szgca7v.onionOnion Service , only accessible via the Tor network .Tor-logo-2011-flat.svg

Debian ( English [ ˈdɛbi̯ən ]) is a collaboratively developed free operating system . Debian GNU / Linux is based on the basic system tools of the GNU -project and the Linux - kernel . The current version is Debian 10 "Buster", the current pre-release version is Debian 11 "Bullseye". Debian includes a wide variety of applications and tools; currently there are over 57,000 program packages .

Debian was founded by Ian Murdock in August 1993 and has been actively developed since then. Today the project has over 1,000 official developers. It is one of the oldest, most influential, and most widely used GNU / Linux distributions . Many other distributions use Debian as a basis. The most famous Debian GNU / Linux derivative today is Ubuntu .


Anyone who successfully goes through the so-called new member process can become a Debian developer: Applicants are tested for their knowledge and skills, and it is ensured that they are familiar with the ideology of the project.

The name of the operating system is derived from the first names of the Debian founder Ian Murdock and his girlfriend and later wife Debra Lynn. Just a few months after its founding, in May 1994, the project decided to change the official name from Debian Linux to Debian GNU / Linux , following the Free Software Foundation's view that the operating system, often referred to as Linux , was a variant of the GNU system (for the background to the differences of opinion in this regard, see GNU / Linux name dispute ). Since Debian from Version 6.0 (Squeeze) is officially available in two variants - GNU / Linux and GNU / kFreeBSD - since then the respective name affix has only been mentioned in relation to these; in general, only Debian is spoken of today.

The system is known for its package management dpkg and its frontend APT . With these it is possible to replace old versions of Debian GNU / Linux with current ones or to install new software packages. You are also responsible for resolving all the dependencies required by a program, i.e. loading and installing all program packages that the desired software requires.


1993 to 1998

On August 16, 1993, Ian Murdock announced the "Debian Linux Release". He had tried to use SLS , which was one of the first comprehensive Linux distributions . However, since he was dissatisfied with their quality, he designed his own system, but was inspired by SLS. In the same year he also published the Debian Manifesto, a compilation of his views on Debian. The focus here was on open development “in the spirit of Linux and GNU ”.

By 1995 the project published the first development versions with the version numbers 0.9x. During this time, it was also sponsored by the Free Software Foundation and had around 60 developers. In 1996 the first stable version 1.1 was finally published. Because a CD-ROM vendor inadvertently published a previous version under the number 1.0, an actual version 1.0 was never produced - to avoid confusion. In April 1996, Murdock was replaced by Bruce Perens as head of the project. In the following years this position changed several times. On June 17, 1996 followed with Buzz (Version 1.1) the first release, which carried an alias name. All other publications were also provided with such, whereby this is always based on a character from the film Toy Story or its sequels. In 1997, after prior discussion, the Debian Social Contract was ratified.

Version 2.0 Hamm was published on July 24, 1998, and was available for several architectures for the first time. At that time, the project comprised 1500 packages and 400 developers.

1999 to 2004

This was followed by further 2.x releases with new ports to other architectures and an increasing number of packages. Particularly noteworthy is the development of APT . Also came with Debian GNU / Hurd the first port to a non-Linux kernel.

The testing branch was founded in 2000 . In the following time the Debian website has been translated into 20 languages. The sub - projects Debian-Junior and Debian-Med were founded, which were aimed at children and medical research and practice. In the same year, the DebConf developer conference took place for the first time , which has been held annually at different locations since then.

Version 3.0 Woody July 19, 2002 contained the first time the K Desktop Environment , after the license issue of Qt was clarified. The project had grown to 900 developers and 8500 binary packages. The official distribution consisted of 7 CDs.

Since 2005

It wasn't until almost three years later, on June 6, 2005, that version 3.1 Sarge was released. The long period of time earned the project some criticism, but was mainly due to the development of an installer for eleven different architectures. With Ubuntu , the most important Debian derivative today was created. Sarge contained around 15,400 packages and required 14 CDs. About 1500 developers contributed to this release. In addition to the mass of updated and newly added packages, the newly written installation program, which has been translated into 40 languages, is particularly noteworthy. was also included for the first time.

In 2006 the seventh DebConf was held in Oaxtepec, Mexico . In addition, after the name dispute between Debian and Mozilla, Debian renamed the corresponding Mozilla Firefox package to Iceweasel, and that of Mozilla Thunderbird to Icedove .

Version 4.0 Etch was released on April 8, 2007 by around 1000 developers . This contained around 18,200 binary packages. 5.0 Lenny followed in February 2009 , and in February 2011 Lenny oldstable and 6.0 Squeeze with over 29,000 software packages were released as stable .

From version 6.0 “Squeeze” Debian GNU / kFreeBSD was the first official port to another operating system kernel - that of the FreeBSD project - available as a technology preview.

On May 4, 2013 version 7 was set as "stable" with Wheezy . This included LibreOffice for the first time . For version 7 “Wheezy” the release of Debian GNU / Hurd , an official port to the GNU Hurd , was discussed. However, this was rejected.

Version 8, code name Jessie , followed on April 25, 2015 , in which the init system was switched from the previously used SysVinit to the controversially discussed systemd . Version 8 did not use the FreeBSD port.

The ninth issue of Debian, codenamed Stretch , was released on June 17, 2017. The most noticeable innovation was the return of Firefox and Thunderbird.


The Debian Project is constituted by the Debian Constitution . It regulates the democratic organizational structure with regular elections. In addition, the project with the committed partnership agreement Debian Social Contract to free software .

Version 1.1 of the articles of association has been in effect since April 26, 2004. The actual substantive change states that all components of the Debian system (in the main branch main ) should be free, not just the software. The Debian Free Software Guidelines therefore do not apply to longer limited to free software, but more generally on the public domain. Since the effects of a change called “editorial” came as a surprise to many developers, it was decided in an additional vote in July 2004 that this change would not take effect until after the release of Sarge in June 2005.

The current head of the Debian project is Jonathan Carter. The post is reassigned once a year by election. All elections and votes take place electronically (with the help of a digital signature ) using the Schulze method .

Software in the Public Interest was founded in 1997 as an umbrella organization for Debian and other free software projects .

Debian Social Contract

The Debian Social Contract ( English Debian Social Contract ) is a done by the Debian project public policy that fundamentals governs how the free software Debian manufactured, distributed and supervised. The articles of association are based on a proposal by Ean Schuessler. Bruce Perens drafted a first version of the document, which was then refined with other Debian developers in June 1997 before it was accepted as a public guideline. Version 1.0 was ratified on July 5, 1997. The revised version 1.1 was ratified on April 26, 2004. It has since replaced its predecessor.

A particularly important part of the contract, which is also used beyond the Debian project, is the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). The community around the establishment of the term open source in public used this as a basis for writing their definition of open source . Bruce Perens generalized the guidelines, while striking out Debian from the text to The Open Source Definition (dt. The Open Source Definition ) to create. It has been used by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) ever since . Over time, however, some differences have emerged here.

The Debian project takes the obligation to provide free software set out in the contract very seriously. Central discussions in the Linux environment are largely determined by the project, such as the consistently free documentation of the programs (discussion about the GFDL ) or the avoidance of brand names because a manufacturer can influence the project through them. One effect of this policy was the name dispute between Debian and Mozilla , which led to the renaming of the Firefox application to Iceweasel within Debian.

Software security

Software problems are dealt with publicly, as are all security problems. Security issues are discussed publicly on the debian-security-announce mailing list . Debian's security advisories are posted on a public mailing list (both inside and outside) and posted on a public server. From this procedure one expects a faster finding of security gaps and thus the possibility to be able to fix them sooner. The opposite approach of security through obscurity , on the other hand, is considered impractical. The fact that the further development of the distribution is visible to the public with the participation of a large number of people requires special security measures. For example, changes to packages are always digitally signed with a verifiable key . The user then checks the validity of the signature before installation. This measure is intended to make it more difficult for third parties to smuggle malicious software into Debian packages .

The package maintainers adapt the security aspects of their respective software to the general principles of Debian. For this reason, services are often "safe" preset after installation, which can be perceived as a "restriction" by a user. Nevertheless, Debian tries to balance security aspects and simple administration. For example, services like ssh and ntp are not installed inactive, as is common with the BSD family distributions .

When a security issue is discovered in a Debian package, it is posted outright along with an assessment of the risk it poses. At the same time, a security update for this package will be prepared as soon as possible and published on special servers. In this way, critical security gaps are often closed within hours.

The Debian custom implementation of the key generation competent random the OpenSSL - library worked from September 2006 to 13 May 2008 to a significant vulnerability. The generated secret keys could be estimated and thus (pre-) calculated in a short time (1024 and 2048 bit keys in about two hours). In particular, OpenSSH and secure communication in web browsers were affected - GnuPG, however, was not.

The security risk continues to exist for any RSA keys that were created on affected systems during this period and that have not been recreated since the library was updated. All DSA keys that have ever been used by a computer (client) with a faulty random number generator have since been insecure, even if they were originally created on a computer with a correctly working random number generator.

In January 2019, a security flaw was discovered in the Debian package manager tool ("apt" or "apt-get") that allowed a man-in-the-middle attacker to execute code when updating. The discoverer of this security vulnerability pleaded, also against the background that this was not the only security vulnerability with these effects in apt and that such vulnerabilities can always occur, for Debian to use HTTPS as standard for updates with apt instead of HTTP in the future , since HTTPS is the integrity secures all communication with the update server. This was rejected in the past with the note that apt itself verifies the packages, which is correct so far, but security gaps like this would still lead to a security gain, since the security gap is then no longer accessible by all man-in the middle attackers who can intervene in the connection can be exploited, but only by the selected Debian update mirrors of the device.

Release cycle

Debian package lifecycle flowchart

Debian offers several versions (releases) in parallel at all times: stable ('stable'), testing ('testing') and unstable ('unstable'). After the release of each stable version, the previous stable version is continued as oldstable for at least one year.


experimental is a precursor to unstable . In experimental , changes are tried that can have extensive effects on the entire system. The transition of the X Window System from XFree86 to X.Org was tested in experimental . experimental is not a complete collection of packages. It only contains what needs special investigation.


unstable is the first port of call for new versions of packages and programs before they are integrated into testing . There they are checked for errors. unstable is less intended for productive use than for testing new package versions. Anyone who uses unstable must expect to be confronted with program errors that result from inadequate interaction with other software components. Were no serious bugs critical for the release (“release-critical bugs”, “RC bugs”) found within the test period (usually ten, occasionally five, for urgent packages two or even zero days) and there are no other reasons like that If individual packages are withheld by the release team or if dependencies are not met, the package is included in testing .

Debian Stretch with Xfce4 and Xfce Terminal


testing is the candidate for the next stable. Immediately after the release of a new stable , testing and stable are identical. In testing , updates and new application packages are gradually being integrated. So testing is constantly evolving. The system normally remains fully operational. The installed packages can be checked for updates on a daily basis and these can be installed if necessary. This method is often used for workstation computers .

A few months before a new stable version is released, testing for new programs and program versions is “freeze”. Changes then usually only relate to the elimination of errors that occurred during the test. A new stable is only published when all bugs classified as "serious" have been resolved. The current status and the chronological sequence of the number of these errors can be read on an automatically updated website.

The constant changes to testing carry the risk of installation errors that can affect the running system. How this risk is to be assessed in comparison to the static publications of other distributions, which are also not error-free, is the subject of emotional discussions.


stable is the current official version. Debian has released a new stable about every two years since 2000 . With the exception of security updates, nothing is changed in the packages it contains. stable is therefore a suitable candidate for server systems that have to run reliably for a long time. Before the release, the malfunctions classified as serious are eliminated for a few months with high priority. During this time, no major version jumps in packages or new packages are accepted. Shortly before a Debian release, stable represents the level of software versions from about two and a half years ago.

Debian Squeeze with Xdm


oldstable is the predecessor of the current stable , as long as security updates are made available. Debian recommends working with the current stable , but will support oldstable for at least another year with security updates.

Debian Buster with GNOME , GNOME Terminal and Firefox


When the regular support of version 6.x Squeeze ended in spring 2014 , long term support (LTS) followed for the first time for most packages on the architectures i386 and amd64 until February 2016 by the newly founded project Debian Long Term Support ( debian-lts ). This has set itself the goal of providing all versions with security updates for at least 5 years. Since the end of May 2018 and the end of support for Debian 7 Wheezy , Freexian has been offering extended long term support (ELTS) for selected packages. This commercial offer should be active for at least 1 year, it is not an official Debian project, Debian's infrastructure is not involved.

Each version has a code name taken from characters in the Toy Story film or its sequels. Currently, “Buster” (Debian 10) is the name of the stable branch. The code name of unstable has been "Sid" since December 2000. This is a reference to the boy who broke toys several times in the Toy Story movie. Debian received a code name for the first time with the release of version 1.1 (June 17, 1996). By then Bruce Perens had taken over the lead from Ian Murdock . Perens worked at the Pixar film studio , which produces the Toy Story films.

Time interval between releases

At times there were long periods of time between Debian releases. There were different reactions to this, for example packages of different publications were mixed up. However, this becomes impossible if central parts of the system differ too greatly. So there was between Sarge and Etch a change in glibc - ABI , which made an upgrade for most packages needed. For some tasks such as spam and virus detection , Debian temporarily offered a package source called "volatile" (inconsistent) , which was replaced with a new package source "updates" with Squeeze . For some programs you can also make do with so-called backports . These are packages of newer program versions compiled for an old Debian release. This only updates the programs for which the respective backports are designed.

Software categories

Within a release, the main section contains the actual Debian system. main consists entirely of free software and other works in accordance with DFSG . It is possible to install a functioning system with packages from main alone . non-free contains software that is proprietary , and contrib houses software that is free itself, but can not run without software from non-free , like Java programs in the past that required the Java runtime environment from Sun Microsystems . contrib and non-free are not an official part of Debian, but are supported, among other things, by providing the usual infrastructure for main .

Supported Architectures

Debian supports a number of different hardware architectures. A distinction is made between official release architectures and ports . In order to be officially supported as a release architecture, a number of conditions must be met. A sufficiently large team is required, a sufficient number of corresponding computers must be available for the Debian project to create packages, and almost all packages must be able to be built on the architecture and the software must be usable. Each architecture is initially supported as a port and can be upgraded to an officially supported architecture. Conversely, an official release architecture for a port can be devalued if the requirements for release architectures are no longer met. There are no stable releases for ports, only the unstable version exists.


Legend: Older version; no longer supported Older version; still supported Current version Current preliminary version Future version
version Surname status release Support (LTS) Release cycle
in months
Kernel supported architectures Packages Remarks
Older version; no longer supported: 1.1 Buzz June 17, 1996 - - 2.0 1 x86-32 474 First officially released version. Version 1.0 was never officially released to avoid confusion after a CD-ROM manufacturer incorrectly released an unreleased version as Debian 1.0.
Older version; no longer supported: 1.2 Rex December 12, 1996 - 6th 2.0.27 1 x86-32 848
Older version; no longer supported: 1.3 Bo June 5, 1997 - 6th 2.0.29 1 x86-32 974
Older version; no longer supported: 2.0 Hamm July 24, 1998 - 14th 2.0.34 2 M68k , x86-32 ≈ 1,500
Older version; no longer supported: 2.1 Slink March 9, 1999 - 8th 2.0.36 4th Alpha , M68k, SPARC , x86-32 ≈ 2,250 First version with the APT package management system.
Older version; no longer supported: 2.2 Potato August 15, 2000 - 18th 2.2.16 6th Alpha, ARM OABI (arm), M68k, PowerPC , SPARC, x86-32 ≈ 3,900
Older version; no longer supported: 3.0 Woody July 19, 2002 - 23 2.2.20 11 Alpha, ARM OABI, PA-RISC , IA-64 , M68k, MIPS , MIPSel , PowerPC, S / 390 , SPARC, x86-32 ≈ 8,500
Older version; no longer supported: 3.1 Coffins June 6, 2005 - 35 2.4.27 11 Alpha, ARM OABI, PA-RISC, IA-64, M68k, MIPS, MIPSel, PowerPC, S / 390, SPARC, x86-32 ≈ 15,400
Older version; no longer supported: 4.0 Etch April 8, 2007 - 22nd 2.6.18 11 Alpha, ARM OABI, PA-RISC, IA-64, MIPS, MIPSel, PowerPC, S / 390, SPARC, x86 (i386 & amd64) ≈ 18,700 For the first time with a graphical installation program. The fourth update from July 26th, 2008 brought with it for the first time in a stable version more current drivers for previously unusable devices.
Older version; no longer supported: 5.0 Lenny February 14, 2009 - 23 2.6.26 12 Alpha, ARM OABI & EABI (arm & armel), PA-RISC, IA-64, MIPS, MIPSel, PowerPC, S / 390, SPARC, x86 (i386 & amd64) ≈ 25,100
Older version; no longer supported: 6.0 Squeeze February 6, 2011 May 31, 2014 (February 29, 2016) 24 2.6.32 9 ARM EABI (armel), IA-64, MIPS, MIPSel, PowerPC, S / 390, SPARC, x86 (i386 & amd64) ≈ 29,000 With FreeBSD kernel for x86 (32 and 64 bit) as a technology preview, Linux and FreeBSD kernels without binary blobs . Extended supply of security updates for the i386 and amd64 architectures until February 2016.
Older version; no longer supported: 7th Wheezy 4th May 2013 April 26, 2016 (May 31, 2018) 27 3.2.41 11 ARM EABI (armel & armhf), MIPS (mips & mipsel), PowerPC, S / 390, S390x, SPARC, IA-64, x86 (i386 & amd64) ≈ 36,000 With FreeBSD kernel for x86 (32 and 64 bit) as technology preview, multiarch support.
The numbering scheme for security updates has been changed from x.0.y to xy .
Older version; no longer supported: 8th Jessie oldoldstable April 25, 2015 2018-06 (2020-06) 23 3.16.64 10 x86 (i386 & amd64), ARM EABI (armel & armhf), MIPS (mips & mipsel), System z, AArch64, Motorola / IBM PowerPC (powerpc & ppc64el) ≈ 43,000 systemd as standard for init ; Support of ARM64 and PPC64LE systems.
Older version; still supported: 9 Stretch oldstable 17th June 2017 2020 (2022-06) 26th 4.9.168 10 x86 (amd64 & i386), ARM (arm64, armel, armhf), MIPS (mips, mips64el, mipsel). PowerPC (ppc64el), s390x ≈ 51,000 “Freeze” on February 5, 2017, new names for the network interfaces, MariaDB instead of MySQL Standard, Nftables included for the first time
Current version: 10 Buster stable 6th July 2019 2022 (2024) 25th 4.19.37 10 x86 (amd64 & i386), ARM (arm64, armel, armhf), MIPS (mips, mips64el, mipsel). PowerPC (ppc64el), s390x ≈ 57,000 GNOME Desktop 3.30, Plasma 5.14, OpenJDK 11, NodeJS 10.15.2, Bash 5.0
Preliminary version: 11 Bullseye testing
Future version: 12 Bookworm
Supported architectures over time (green: currently supported; red: no longer supported)
Release periods and package sizes over time


According to an online survey by Heise online in February 2009, Debian Linux is the most widely used free server operating system in German companies with 47% (multiple answers possible). Among the free desktop operating systems, Debian Linux ranks second behind Ubuntu (60.8%), which is also derived from Debian, with a distribution of 29.9% - closely followed by openSUSE (28.8%, as of February 2009). Debian Linux is the most widely used Linux distribution for web servers.

Debian is used alongside Scientific Linux , Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows on the International Space Station (ISS).

Use by public institutions

The government of the Spanish region of Extremadura developed the Debian-based distribution GNU / LinEx from 2002 to 2011 and introduced it in schools and in the public health system. In early 2012, the regional administration announced that LinEx would be discontinued, shortly afterwards it announced that 40,000 administrative workplaces would now be converted to Debian.

The city of Munich switched to free software with its Debian-based operating system LiMux between 2006 and 2013, but plans to return to Windows systems by 2020. The German Federal Office for Information Security started using Debian on desktop systems from 2008 onwards. Also Vienna offered from 2004 to 2009 with Wienux the city administration a Debian-based free alternative. In 2009 Skolelinux , an adapted Debian version, was tested in a pilot phase at eleven schools in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate , after the system from "Project 3s" had already been introduced in several schools in Hamburg .


The Debian project intends to support variants of the GNU system with other cores in addition to the Linux distribution Debian GNU / Linux with Linux kernel .

With Squeeze and Debian GNU / kFreeBSD , the first port to the kernel of the FreeBSD operating system was published in 2011 . This was initially only available for x86 architectures (32 and 64 bit). The naming Debian GNU / kFreeBSD should emphasize that it is just the FreeBSD kernel, while the system tools were still those of the GNU Project, not the variants of the BSD family. From the user's point of view, it remained more similar to other Linux distributions than to FreeBSD. However, Jessie no longer contained the GNU / kFreeBSD port due to persistent problems and disappointing development progress.

In the future the variant Debian GNU / Hurd with the kernel GNU Hurd will be released. However, there are no specific publication plans yet. A variant of Debian GNU / NetBSD with the NetBSD kernel was abandoned in 2002.

Debian Pure Blends

A Debian Pure Blend (Debian-internally also for short Blend ) is an internal adaptation of Debian GNU / Linux, which serves a special purpose. Blends form thematic substructures within the unstructured package pool of around 30,000 Debian binary packages and therefore allow easy access to the relevant packages for specific subject areas. In addition, behind a blend there is also a team of developers who are competent in the subject area and act as a contact person for certain subject areas and deal with the packaging of the software belonging to this subject area.

The stable blends are:

  • Debian Astro
  • DebiChem
  • DebianEdu (formerly: Skolelinux )
  • Debian Games
  • Debian GIS
  • Debian Junior
  • Debian Med
  • Debian Multimedia
  • Debian Science

Debian derivatives

The large selection of packages and the reliable system of package management make Debian attractive for deriving further independent distributions from them. Legally, this is made possible by the license that applies to all components and allows extensive freedom. As a result, there are a large number of distributions that mainly or exclusively use packages from Debian. Some popular distributions use Debian as a foundation. Examples are Ubuntu , Knoppix, and Linux Mint . According to the GNU / Linux Distribution Timeline , Debian and the derivatives derived from it result in over 480 distributions based on Debian. (As of October 2012) Many of these distributions are designed for a special purpose, such as use as a server or in schools.

A Debian derivative developed since 2014 under the name Devuan appeared in May 2017, which explicitly dispenses with systemd.


Debian M68K-Port Community Meeting in the Linuxhotel

According to a vague estimate by Debian developer James Bromberger, the source code of all programs contained in Debian 7.0 is worth around 14 billion euros. The estimate is based on assumptions about the annual salary and programming performance of the average programmer .

Debian is used with the M68K port to run old systems like Atari ST , Amiga or Macintosh with the latest Linux software. About 20 active developers are working on this port, which is used by around 150-200 users worldwide.


Web links

Wiktionary: Debian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Debian  album with pictures, videos and audio files

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