Vanilla software

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Computer software, and sometimes also other computing-related systems like computer hardware or algorithms, is called Vanilla when not customized from its original form, meaning that it is used without any customizations or updates applied to it.[1] Vanilla software can become a widespread de facto industry standard, widely used by businesses and individuals.

The term comes from the traditional standard flavor of ice cream, vanilla flavor. According to Eric S. Raymond's The New Hacker's Dictionary "vanilla" means more "ordinary" than "default".[2]


As example, IBM's mainframe text publishing system BookMaster, provides a default way to specify which parts of a book to publish, called "vanilla", and a fancier way, called "mocha".[3]

For Unix-based kernels, a "vanilla kernel" refers to a kernel that has been unmodified by any third-party source. For instance, the vanilla Linux kernel is often given a Linux distribution–specific "flavour" by being heavily modified.[4][5]

In computer games the term "vanilla" is often used to describe the original version that has not been modified with third-party addons, nor developer updates or patches. It can also refer to the original game engine when source ports or expansion packs are available. For example, World of Warcraft could refer to either the original game or one of the four expansion packs, so users may refer to the original as "vanilla" to distinguish it from the subsequent versions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is vanilla?". September 2005. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  2. ^ vanilla /adj./ "[from the default flavor of ice cream in the U.S.] Ordinary flavor, standard." from the Jargon File
  3. ^ Gary Richtmeyer (2002-05-01). "B2H User's Guide (HTML 3 version)". AT&T. Retrieved 2013-10-16. "Conditional sections (.cs) and BookMaster's "vanilla" DVCF macros (.CONFIG and .WHEN) are supported, but not BookMaster's "mocha" DVCF macros (e.g. .USING, .INCLUDE)." 
  4. ^ "Re: What is the vanilla kernel?". 2005-10-10. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  5. ^ "Ubuntu Kernel vs. Vanilla Kernel". October 2009. Retrieved 2013-11-17.