BSD operating systems

From DistroList
OpenBSD DragonFly BSD

Open Source BSD operating systems / BSD derivatives

Currently, and for some years now, there is a class of Unix-like operating systems under active development, descended from the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) series of Unix variants developed (originally by Bill Joy) at the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Name 1st
release date
Package manager
Package format
NetBSD 20/04/1993[1] pkg, OctoPkg, PKG, FreeBSD Ports
FreeBSD 01/11/1993[2] pkg, OctoPkg, PKG, FreeBSD Ports
(Update or administration tool: freebsd-update, Command-line interface)
OpenBSD 18/10/1995[3] OpenBSD package tools
DragonFly BSD 12/07/2004[4][5] pkgsrc from NetBSD; DPorts3​
  • Both NetBSD and FreeBSD were created in 1993. They were initially derived from 386BSD (also known as "Jolix"), and merged the 4.4BSD-Lite source code in 1994.
  • OpenBSD was forked from NetBSD in 1995
  • DragonFly BSD was forked from FreeBSD in 2003.


It is difficult to categorize the goals of each project: the differences are very subjective.

  • FreeBSD aims for high performance and ease of use by end users, and is a favourite of web content providers. It runs on a number of platforms and has significantly more users than the other projects.

  • NetBSD aims for maximum portability: "of course it runs NetBSD". It runs on machines from palmtops to large servers, and has even been used on NASA space missions. It is a particularly good choice for running on old non-Intel® hardware.

  • OpenBSD aims for security and code purity: it uses a combination of the open source concept and rigorous code reviews to create a system which is demonstrably correct, making it the choice of security-conscious organizations such as banks, stock exchanges and US Government departments. Like NetBSD, it runs on a number of platforms.

  • DragonFly BSD aims for high performance and scalability under everything from a single-node UP system to a massively clustered system. DragonFlyBSD has several long-range technical goals, but focus lies on providing a SMP-capable infrastructure that is easy to understand, maintain and develop for.

Overview of BSD versions

  • Primary developers


1st Official release
Based on
Short description
  • The FreeBSD Project

BSD 2-clause license

386BSD, 4.4BSD-Lite
Aims to be usable for any purpose.
  • Theo de Raadt, and
    The OpenBSD Project

ISC License

(first official), 01/10/1996
NetBSD 1.0
Aims for maximum correctness in code, bringing simplicity and security.
  • The NetBSD Project

BSD 2-clause license

386BSD, 4.4BSD-Lite
Aims for maximum portability.
DragonFly BSD
  • Matt Dillon

BSD 3-clause license

FreeBSD 4.8
Aims for maximum scalability.

BSD distributions (versions)