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Today, CentOS turns 15 years old. It’s had hard times and good times, and gone through a number of big changes over those years. We feel that we’ve landed in a really great place over the last five years, as part of the Red Hat family of projects, and we’re very excited about what’s coming with CentOS 8, and the years to come.

Right now, we want to look back at how we got where we are now. We did that by going back and talking with some of the people that were involved in those early years, as well as some that joined the project later on.

We started by talking with Greg Kurtzer, who was the original founder of the project. In this interview, he told us about the motivations for starting the project, as well as some of the community challenges that were faced in those first years.


Along the way, Greg had an opportunity to very intentionally set the tone of the community to be welcoming and tolerant. This was primarily because Greg had has some very negative experiences with some of the very hostile communities in those early years. We talked a little bit about those intentional changes in the second half of our interview.


Our next interview was with Manuel “Wolfy” Wolfshant, who was also involved almost from the beginning. He began as a user, and quickly moved to building packages, which he needed for work, but decided to share with the world. He also was then, and is now, very involved in user support in the forums.

While at FOSDEM, in Brussels, in February, I talked with two members of the community. Mike McLean, a contributor to the project, and the author of the Koji tool that is used extensively in CentOS and Fedora, talked about his contributions:


And Brian Stinson, a more recent addition to the community, talked about his work in the CI and infrastructure of the project:


Our community is very dependent on people that actually use CentOS in production, because they are the people who find the problems, and who have insight into changes that should be made. They also are our most valuable contributors to user support, because they’ve been there, and know how to fix things when they break. Jeff Sheltren is one of those people, and has been using CentOS since the very beginning. Over time, he’s become part of the centos-qa group that helps test and package new versions of the distribution.


And finally, we have an interview with Karsten Wade, who was very instrumental in bringing CentOS into the Red Hat family, and continues to act as the liaison between the CentOS board, and Red Hat, although his position has changed over the years as have moved full time into that community manager role.


In the coming months, we’ll continue to do these interviews. If you’re part of the CentOS community, we’d like to hear from you--how you got involved, and how your role has changed as you’ve gotten more involved over the years. Get in touch with me--and we’ll talk.

Happy Birthday, CentOS. And here’s hoping that the next 15 years are even better. Come see us at Red Hat Summit next month to hear about what’s coming in CentOS 8, and what’s next for our community!

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