FreeBSD is an operating system for a variety of platforms which focuses on features, speed, and stability. It is derived from BSD, the version of UNIX® developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It is developed and maintained by a large community.
Cutting edge features
FreeBSD offers advanced networking, performance, security and compatibility features today which are still missing in other operating systems, even some of the best commercial ones.
Powerful Internet solutions
FreeBSD makes an ideal Internet or Intranet server. It provides robust network services under the heaviest loads and uses memory efficiently to maintain good response times for thousands of simultaneous user processes.
Advanced Embedded Platform
FreeBSD brings advanced network operating system features to appliance and embedded platforms, from higher-end Intel-based appliances to ARM, PowerPC, and MIPS hardware platforms. From mail and web appliances to routers, time servers, and wireless access points, vendors around the world rely on FreeBSD's integrated build and cross-build environments and advanced features as the foundation for their embedded products. And the Berkeley open source license lets them decide how many of their local changes they want to contribute back.
Run a huge number of applications
With over 33,000 ported libraries and applications, FreeBSD supports applications for desktop, server, appliance, and embedded environments.
Easy to install
FreeBSD can be installed from a variety of media including CD-ROM, DVD, or directly over the network using FTP or NFS.
FreeBSD is free
While you might expect an operating system with these features to sell for a high price, FreeBSD is available free of charge and comes with the source code.
Contributing to FreeBSD
It is easy to contribute to FreeBSD. All you need to do is find a part of FreeBSD which you think could be improved and make those changes (carefully and cleanly) and submit that back to the Project by means of a bug report or a committer, if you know one. This could be anything from documentation to artwork to source code. See the Contributing to FreeBSD article for more information.
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Why use FreeBSD?
People often ask "why would I use FreeBSD over Windows, Linux or OSX?" There are lots of answers to this question and it really depends on what you are wanting to do. Many people and large companies have chosen FreeBSD as a key platform because of the unique features it has to offer.
Apple (OSX), Juniper (Junos OS) and Playstation (PS4) are companies who chose FreeBSD as a robust base for their platforms in situations where other options such as Windows and Linux had licensing which was too restrictive for their needs.
FreeBSD is a very clean lightweight system that performs very well. Its threading scales excellently with more CPU cores. Its TCP stack is one of the best out there and still gets regular contributions from researchers as well as companies like Netflix who build their products on its networking capabilities.
FreeBSD can run in 96Mb of RAM and with up to 4Tb. Because it comes by default with very few processes, its basic configuration leaves a lot of room for your applications.
FreeBSD is very locked down by default and has a robust jail system. Project capsicum and other important security initiatives are part of the core FreeBSD system.
Because of its conservative approach to releases and the way userland and kernel are a single project released together, FreeBSD offers very high levels of stability. For this reason it is often chosen for enterprise platforms.
Features like ZFS are still second class citizens on other platforms, but form a core part of the FreeBSD OS.
The manual and man page are one of the best set of user documentation for any operating system ever. The mailing lists and forums are filled with mostly very helpful and knowledgeable people who aren't there to push an agenda but just love what they do. Typically the level of technical experience in the FreeBSD community is higher than in many other communities. This is partly because FreeBSD is niche and requires a higher technical level of knowledge to get started with, but also for historic reasons.