The current consensus is that is a useful tag. If that's the case, then what's the policy on (459 uses) vs (98 uses)?

If is here to stay, then appears to be redundant: + = .

If the Linux tag is to remain, it makes sense to make a synonym of . The current situation is the worst of all worlds: questions are split between combinations of all three tags, so they are not useful for searching purposes.

However, I'll point out I have problems with the tag, because

  • it seems to match most of the questions on the site
  • if its purpose is to act as a narrowing filter, then it is constantly misused
  • the constant misuse means there's a lot of overhead to keeping the tag correct
  • it changes the meaning of other tags on the same question ( -> iff )
  • it's not clear when it should be applied. Whenever a question is asked on a Linux platform? Only when the question is Linux-specific? Only when the answer is Linux-specific? How does one determine that? Who does that? I certainly don't know enough about Unix to know that my Linux-specific answer isn't valid on AIX.

4 Answers 4


Both and + have their pros and cons. On this site, there isn't much general kernel expertise (as in, OS designers), whereas there is Linux kernel expertise (understanding the configuration options, initramfs, etc.). So I think makes more sense.

However this isn't clear-cut. BSD kernels are close enough that expertise with one can sometimes cross over to another. Loading a kernel with a bootloaders is not so much dependent on which kernel it is, but the expertise is primarily associated with the bootloader.

In any case, I agree that there should not be a split: either all Linux kernel questions should be called +, or all Linux kernel questions should be called .

Only about half the questions are also tagged or . If is to go away, then I think the best course of action is:

As for the , it is meaningful: it's (meant to be) used on questions which are exclusively or strongly about Linux, as opposed to questions which can apply to any unix variant, or questions that are about a specific distribution. It does get misapplied: a lot of askers use on non-specific questions or don't specify because they aren't aware that this site isn't only about Linux. If you see it misapplied, click that edit button and fix it (as well as anything else with the question that needs fixing).

  • You don't address my concern. How does one determine that a question is 'exclusively or strongly about Linux'? Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 5:17
  • 1
    @ire_and_curses Evaluate who the questions and its answers are likely to be of interest to. If that covers anyone running Linux (and the particular application, hardware, etc. that the question is about), then use linux. If that's only users of a particular distribution, use arch-linux, fedora, ubuntu, etc. as applicable. If the that's users of any or most unix systems, don't use a tag for the unix variant. Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 10:04

I think that the site dedicated to ‘UNIX & Linux’ shouldn’t have them both as tags since when I am writing on this site, it is already related to what the title of the site says and there is no need to double it in tags.

UNIX, as far as GNU/Linux OS has many different variations, so questions about some basic things (let we rely on POSIX compatibility now) will not be harmed if no ‘linux’ or ‘unix’ tag will be added to it, they will not clarify the question. There must be a bunch of other details worthy enough to be specified for a good question.

I paid heed to Stack* sites often use many types of notices making a future question more precise. Why not to use a notification that will be shown to a user, looking for a ‘linux’ tag, and asking him to define what exactly GNU/Linux OS his question is related to, and, if it isn’t, say that in that case it is a common question and there is no need in such tag.

Though, topics related to OS kernels should have their tags, and to avoid disambiguation I’d suggest tags like ‘linux-kernel’ and ‘bsd-kernel’ for example. Pay attention to required ‘-kernel’ suffix at the end of the tags. Yes, I already see that tautology in case of ‘linux-kernel’, but since the name of the GNU project is always forgotten, I found this as the most appropriate solution for a Stack* site.

Update starts here.

When you are on StackOverflow it is asking you ‘What is your programming question?’ But there is no ‘programming’ tag. And never will be. Because every question there is about programming, which is category of the common questions. And here we have something common between all the UNIXes and other UNIX-like operating systems, which gives us such category and questions shouldn’t be tagged as ‘unix&linux’ too. Finally the vast majority of packages are widely available not only for GNU/Linux, so with the big share of probability may be related to other UNIX-like operating systems which are not a part of GNU/Linux family. Say I have problems with a gnome-system-monitor on my Fedora. But Gnome DE is available on FreeBSD too, how fair is it to FreeBSD users marking that question with only a linux tag? I think, it’s not fair. But on the other hand, such problem may be related only for asker’s distro and will never appear in any other GNU/Linux or UNIX/UNIX-like OS because of that distro’s maintainers’ fault or, what is most likely, wrong end-user moves plus a specific distro architecture make the bug unreproducible on the other distro.

So, as far as you can’t say how wide is the range of affected UNIX-like operating systems, it’s convenient to rely upon the category of the common questions. Or if you stand for necessary and proper tag names, almost every topic about e.g. bash or sh should initially have tags like UNIX™, GNU/Linux®, UNIX-like, BSD family, and a whole lot of all GNU/Linux distro names as probably affected.

Or let’s expand the previous example with bash. If a question is related to how to write programs in bash, it is not related to only GNU/Linux and shouldn’t have any ties to any OS (or OS family) by means of tags. But if the question is somehow related to the interaction with OS, that OS (but not the whole family!) should be specified first as a probably local distro bug. If the bug has affected other operating systems, the tag related to specific OS should be removed.

Sorry for my English.

  • At the second thought I’ve seen that notice-helper may just suggest a list of GNU/Linux distro names for a user to pick from or to type a distro name he has.
    – tijagi
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 22:36
  • Many questions are specific to Linux, but not to a particular distribution. These questions (and ideally only these questions) should be tagged linux. If this site was only about Linux, a linux site would be redundant, but that is not the case. This site caters to unices that are not Linux, and therefore the linux tag is meaningful and necessary. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 11:55
  • Updated my answer.
    – tijagi
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 14:07

The usage guidance for did not contain any information on when the tag should or should not be used.

My attempt (pending edit) to improve the excerpt to be more helpful, recommending when it is not clear the topic is closely kernel related:

Questions about Linux kernel and Linux kernel related topics eg. implementation details such as system calls, kernel customization, etc. For Linux user space topics which do not involve kernel details, [linux] or distribution tag are more suitable.


Technically, Linux is the kernel so in my opinion, all non kernel related question should not have any of these tags.

All Unix systems I know of have kernels, so I think a kernel tag is also misleading and turns to a low common denominator.

Though, Linux is very large, and most people are not familiar with all it's features and parts, so it is difficult to filter "questions I may know the answer to" by a tag.

I think there should be tags like linux-internals, linux-device-drivers, selinux, linux-filesystems and the like instead of these three tags.

In addition, I have seen many things tagged with Linux that actually refer to GNU tools such as Bash, awk and the like.

  • 1
    Linux is such a huge proportion of the site that using it to filter interesting questions isn't very useful. But it is useful in searches, or in blacklists (e.g. by OSX users who want to keep the volume down). I have no idea what linux-internals or linux-filesystems is supposed to mean, and I think linux+kernel or linux-kernel is fine for device drivers (plus a tag indicating the type of device). Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 1:17
  • “Technically, Linux is the kernel”: you are confusing technically with etymologically or pedantically. The word Linux can mean the kernel originally written by Linux Torvalds, or any unix-like operating system built on this kernel (a Linux distribution). In most instances, the second meaning applies, and that is the meaning we use in the site name and in the tag. See also metonymy. Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 1:19

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