In a world full of fancy development tools and sites, the kernel project’s dependence on email and mailing lists can seem quaintly dated, if not positively prehistoric. But, as Greg Kroah-Hartman pointed out in a Kernel Recipes talk titled “Patches carved into stone tablets”, there are some good reasons for the kernel community’s choices. Rather than being a holdover from an older era, email remains the best way to manage a project as large as the kernel.
A kernel is the first layer of computer, it controls everything on how the computer will work. The Linux Kernel is the most popular kernel in use today, powering over 1.5 billion Android devices, millions of Chromebooks, and millions of devices that are in use everyday (things from wireless routers to smartwatches). This doesn’t include all of the web services we depend on every day that run some version of Linux. You’re probably using something that requires Linux every day.
So what does that have to do with email? With Kernel development which involves thousands of developers around the world, email is the only technology that has proven itself to manage the process of Linux kernel development. Even if email seems old fashion, I like to point out to students that almost every service they use relies on email for account maintenance.