Benevolent dictator for life

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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, 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
Vitalik Buterin Ethereum blockchain-based cryptocurrency [4]
Dries Buytaert Drupal content management framework [5]
Shaun Walker DotNetNuke web application framework [6]
David Heinemeier Hansson Ruby on Rails web framework [7]
Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss Django web framework [8]
Taylor Otwell Laravel web framework [9][10]
Theo de Raadt OpenBSD Unix-like operating system [11]
Daniel Robbins Funtoo Linux Linux distribution [12]
Sébastien Ros Orchard Project content management system [13]
Guido van Rossum Python programming language [7][14]
Linus Torvalds Linux operating system kernel [7][15]
Patrick Volkerding Slackware Linux distribution [16]
Mark Shuttleworth Ubuntu Linux Linux distribution [17]
Larry Wall Perl programming language [18]
Matt Mullenweg WordPress content management framework [19]
Nathan Voxland Liquibase database schema management [20]
Xavier Leroy OCaml programming language [21][22]
Ton Roosendaal Blender 3D computer graphics software [23]
Bram Moolenaar Vim text editor [24]
Don Syme F# programming language [25]
Rich Hickey Clojure programming language [26]
Wes McKinney Pandas Python data analysis library [27]
Martin Odersky Scala programming language [28]
Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) Ruby programming language [29]
Evan Czaplicki Elm front-end web framework [30][31]
Juan Benet InterPlanetary File System decentralized internet [32]
Sylvain Benner Spacemacs community-driven Emacs distribution [33]
Pauli Virtanen SciPy Python library used for scientific and technical computing [34][35]
José Valim Elixir programming language [36]
Chris Lattner Swift programming language [37]


  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. ^ "Ethereum's Boy King Is Thinking About Giving Up the Mantle"
  5. ^ Randy Fay, "How Do Open Source Communities Govern Themselves?"
  6. ^ Book: Building Websites with DotNetNuke 5, Michael Washington and Ian Lackey, Packt Publishing. Page 14 "The core team comprises individuals invited to join the team by Shaun Walker, whom they affectionately call the "Benevolent Dictator"."
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Adrian and Jacob retiring as Django BDFLs". Adrian Holovaty. January 12, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Taylor Otwell, Twitter". Taylor Otwell. October 9, 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Taylor Otwell, Creator of the Laravel PHP Framework". August 5, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  11. ^ Hildebrand, Matthew (July 5, 2005). "Interview: Theo de Raadt on Industry and Free Software". The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times. Archived from the original on June 21, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Welcome to Funtoo Linux". 
  13. ^ "Orchard Project Steering Committee". Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. 
  14. ^ "The Four Hundred—Next Up on the System i: Python". Retrieved May 13, 2008. 
  15. ^ Dee-Ann LeBlanc (31 July 2006). Linux For Dummies (7th ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-470-04793-4. 
  16. ^ "Stories of Linux: A Look at Slackware Linux". 
  17. ^ "Ubuntu carves niche in Linux landscape". CNET. Archived from the original on 6 November 2015. 
  18. ^ "The Art of Ballistic Programming". Archived from the original on June 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Thesis, Automattic, and WordPress | Post Status". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  20. ^ "User and Developer Community | Post Status". Retrieved 2015-08-13. 
  21. ^ "A History of OCaml |". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  22. ^ "OCaml Infrastructure mailing list". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  23. ^ "New Developer Info". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  24. ^ "Why Neovim is Better than Vim". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  25. ^ "Contributing to the F# Language and Compiler". Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  26. ^ "Clojure JIRA Workflow". Retrieved 3 October 2015. 
  27. ^ "pandas 0.20.3 documentation: Tutorials". Retrieved 2017-07-24.  "Wes McKinney’s (pandas BDFL) blog"
  28. ^ "Programming in Scala Leaps onto the World Stage!". Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  29. ^ "A Ruby Design Process". Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  30. ^ "56: Ember vs. Elm: The Showdown with Philip Poots | The Frontside Podcast". The Frontside Podcast. Retrieved 2017-08-14. 
  31. ^ elm-conf (2016-09-19), "Code is the Easy Part" by Evan Czaplicki, retrieved 2017-08-14 
  32. ^ "Understanding the IPFS White Paper part 2". Retrieved 2017-08-21. 
  33. ^ "Spacemacs". Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  34. ^ "SciPy 1.0.0". Retrieved 2017-10-27. 
  35. ^ "SciPy project governance". Retrieved 2017-10-27. 
  36. ^ "Elixir Companies". Retrieved 2017-11-01. 
  37. ^ "Apple Launches Swift, A New Programming Language For Writing iOS And OS X Apps". Retrieved 2018-04-10.