Debian (/ˈdɛbiən/) is a Unix-like operating system consisting entirely of free software. Ian Murdock started the Debian Project on August 16, 1993. Debian 0.01 was released on September 15, 1993,and the first stable version, 1.1, was released on June 17, 1996. The Debian stable branch is the most popular edition for personal computers and network servers, and is used as the basis for many other distributions.

Debian is one of the earliest operating systems based on the Linux kernel. The project's work is carried out over the Internet by a team of volunteers guided by the Debian Project Leader and three foundational documents: the Debian Social Contract, the Debian Constitution, and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. New distributions are updated continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based freeze.

Debian has been openly developed and freely distributed according to the principles of the GNU Project, this drew the support of the Free Software Foundation which sponsored the project from November 1994 to November 1995.When the sponsorship ended, the Debian Project formed the nonprofit Software in the Public Interest to continue financially supporting development.


Debian has access to online repositories that contain over 51,000 packages making it the largest collection of software in the world. Debian officially contains only free software, but non-free software can be downloaded and installed from the Debian repositories. Debian includes popular free programs such as LibreOffice, Firefox web browser, Evolution mail, K3b disc burner, VLC media player, GIMP image editor, and Evince document viewer. Debian is a popular choice for servers, for example as the operating system component of a LAMP stack.


Debian supports Linux officially, having offered kFreeBSD for version 7 but not 8, and GNU Hurd unofficially. GNU/kFreeBSD was released as a technology preview for IA-32 and x86-64 architectures, and lacked the amount of software available in Debian's Linux distribution. Official support for kFreeBSD was removed for version 8, which did not provide a kFreeBSD-based distribution.

Several flavors of the Linux kernel exist for each port. For example, the i386 port has flavors for IA-32 PCs supporting Physical Address Extension and real-time computing, for older PCs, and for x86-64 PCs. The Linux kernel does not officially contain firmware without sources, although such firmware is available in non-free packages and alternative installation media.

Desktop environments

Debian offers CD images specifically built for Xfce, the default desktop on CD, and DVD images for GNOME, KDE and others. MATE is officially supported, while Cinnamon support was added with Debian 8.0 Jessie. Less common window managers such as Enlightenment, Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM, Window Maker and others are available.

The default desktop environment of version 7.0 Wheezy was temporarily switched to Xfce, because GNOME 3 did not fit on the first CD of the set.[26] The default for the version 8.0 Jessie was changed again to Xfce in November 2013, and back to GNOME in September 2014.


Several parts of Debian are translated into languages other than American English, including package descriptions, configuration messages, documentation and the website.[29] The level of software localization depends on the language, ranging from the highly supported German and French to the hardly translated Creek and Samoan. The installer is available in 73 languages.

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