Benevolent dictator for life

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For the political term, see Benevolent dictatorship.

Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL) is a title given to a small number of open-source software development leaders, typically project founders who retain the final say in disputes or arguments within the community.

The phrase originated in 1995 with reference to Guido van Rossum, creator of the Python programming language.[1][2] Shortly after van Rossum joined the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), the term appeared in a follow-up mail by Ken Manheimer to a meeting trying to create a semi-formal group that would oversee Python development and workshops; this initial use included the additional joke of naming van Rossum the "First Interim BDFL".[1]

BDFL should not be confused with the more common term for open-source leaders, "benevolent dictator", which was popularized by Eric S. Raymond's essay "Homesteading the Noosphere" (1999).[3] Among other topics related to hacker culture, Raymond elaborates on how the nature of open source forces the "dictatorship" to keep itself benevolent, since a strong disagreement can lead to the forking of the project under the rule of new leaders.

Persons sometimes referred to as "benevolent dictators for life"[edit]

Name Project Type Reference
Mostapha Roudsari Ladybug + Honeybee Grasshopper plug-in (software) [4]
Dries Buytaert Drupal content management framework [5]
David Heinemeier Hansson Ruby on Rails web framework [6]
Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss Django web framework [7]
Theo de Raadt OpenBSD Unix-like operating system [8]
Daniel Robbins Funtoo Linux Linux distribution [9]
Sébastien Ros Orchard Project content management system [10]
Guido van Rossum Python programming language [6][11]
Linus Torvalds Linux operating system kernel [12][verification needed][6]
Patrick Volkerding Slackware Linux distribution [13]
Larry Wall Perl programming language [14]
Matt Mullenweg WordPress content management framework [15]
Nathan Voxland Liquibase database schema management [16]
Xavier Leroy OCaml programming language [17][18]
Ton Roosendaal Blender 3D computer graphics software [19]
Bram Moolenaar Vim text editor [20]
Don Syme F# programming language [21]
Rich Hickey Clojure programming language [22]


  1. ^ a b Guido van Rossum (July 31, 2008). "Origin of BDFL". Retrieved August 1, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Python Creator Scripts Inside Google". Retrieved May 13, 2008. 
  3. ^ Eric S. Raymond. "Homesteading the Noosphere". Retrieved August 1, 2008. 
  4. ^ Grasshopper forum, ""
  5. ^ Randy Fay, "How Do Open Source Communities Govern Themselves?"
  6. ^ a b c Constine, Josh (December 7, 2012). "Dropbox Hires Away Google’s Guido Van Rossum, The Father Of Python". TechCrunch. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Adrian and Jacob retiring as Django BDFLs". Adrian Holovaty. January 12, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  8. ^ Hildebrand, Matthew (5 July 2005). "Interview: Theo de Raadt on Industry and Free Software". The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times. Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "Welcome to Funtoo Linux". 
  10. ^ "Orchard Project Steering Committee". 
  11. ^ "The Four Hundred—Next Up on the System i: Python". Retrieved May 13, 2008. 
  12. ^ LeBlanc, Dee-Ann. Linux For Dummies (7th ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 15. ISBN 0470047933. 
  13. ^ "Stories of Linux: A Look at Slackware Linux". 
  14. ^ "The Art of Ballistic Programming". 
  15. ^ "Thesis, Automattic, and WordPress | Post Status". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  16. ^ "User and Developer Community | Post Status". Retrieved 2015-08-13. 
  17. ^ "A History of OCaml |". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  18. ^ "OCaml Infrastructure mailing list". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  19. ^ "New Developer Info". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  20. ^ "Why Neovim is Better than Vim". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  21. ^ "Contributing to the F# Language and Compiler". Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Clojure JIRA Workflow". Retrieved 3 October 2015.