Inside TLDP

A behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of the Linux Documentation Project.

LDP is becoming more popular by the day, and the entire collection was published on paper several times. LSL (now CheapBytes) was the publisher of multiple editions. They were called "The Linux Bible", "Dr. Linux", "Linux Getting Started", "Linux the Complete Reference" and "The Linux Encyclopedia".

By 1997, Guylhem Aznar was appointed coordinator of the LDP. His job was to unify the LDP again: mailing lists and servers were in operation all over the world, and nobody knew who was responsible for what. He started by putting together a staff, a team of volunteers that could give structure to TLDP.

The exact configuration of the core team in those days has been preserved. It was composed of a hub, consisting of one main coordinator, plus individual FAQ, Guide and HOWTO coordinators, Greg Ferguson, Joshua Drake and Tim Bynum, respectively. Furthermore, most translation efforts started in 1994 now are running more or less at full speed, and people have been appointed to manage each translation. One project not listed here, although it was among the first, is the German translation effort. As with the recent joining of some Italian translators, it sometimes takes a while for people find one another.

This team registered the domain and moved the entire Linux documentation collection to it, which promptly was mirrored. The relationship with iBiblio (formerly was maintained during the romance with SGI, and the university became a mirror site. The love didn't last, however, and TLDP moved to iBiblio again after the short SGI intermezzo. Paul Jones and his colleagues, responsible for managing TLDP at iBilbio, were very understanding and provided a lot of support, which enabled the centralization of resources in North Carolina.

As far as we could find out, Guylhem and his team also started the discussion and other mailing lists. Prior to that, discussion primarily happened in the Usenet newsgroups. The mailing lists were a good thing; I remember that newsfeed in those days was generating enormous amounts of traffic and consumed--for that time--unreasonable amounts of bandwidth. Some ISPs decided to offer only a partial feed or none at all.

1998 saw the publication of "Linux Undercover", subtitled "Linux Secrets as Revealed by the Linux Documentation Project". Red Hat was the first to use the new just-in-time production method. Previous printed versions often contained stale HOWTOs, but this one essentially was printed straight from the on-line master documents.

Some Serious Organizing

In 1999, the project hosted eight guides, including version 1.0 of the Linux Network Administrator's Guide and beta-1 of the Linux User's Guide. These and other documents still were written mostly in SGML or LaTeX.

The first occurrences of DocBook were seen in 2000; DocBook now is the preferred submission format because it enables easy generation of HTML, PS, PDF and other formats from the source files.

Another novelty that came with the 21st century was the creation of a versioning system. Sergiusz Pawlowicz and Gregory Leblanc were responsible for the setup; Sergiusz still manages our CVS. He also became the listmaster by the end of 2000. Up until then, Debian hosted the TLDP mailing lists.

TLDP project was maturing and growing in every possible way. To this end, David S. Lawyer finalized the LDP Manifesto. David is still the point of contact for all license issues.

A new Web site layout was probably the most visible improvement. The new millennium brought the precursor of the site as it is today.

From to

In some documents you still can see references to the old domain. The reason for the domain switch was not pretty, unfortunately, but as it is part of the TLDP story, it should be told.

As is so often the case, goodwill and kindness made selfishness rise to the occasion. Many people are interested in TLDP, but not always for the good of the project.

At the time Guylhem was elected president, there was only one other candidate. Guylhem didn't want that man to feel left out, so he trusted him to be the webmaster. TLDP lost the domain because the webmaster managed to claim ownership of it. He also purchased the .com domain and ran a commercial Web site on it on the back of TLDP. Needless to say, this caused a lot of friction.

So a new domain had to be found, and was short and free. Guylhem took his responsibilities seriously, registered the domain in 2002 and moved the project to the current domain. The team also took this opportunity to broaden the scope of the project, and they combined the move with a restructuring operation that made the project much more efficient.



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People responsible for

poker online's picture

People responsible for managing projects often ask us how we do it. This is how. There is no book that tells you how to do it. We are on a road with many bumps and ups and downs, and TLDP seemingly hangs together with hooks and eyes--but it's there and it doesn't go away.


thank you

Free online dating site's picture

Thank you for this project. My website is developed in pure C++ for Linux, it does not use any MySQL/PHP databases. All database is held in RAM with STL and dumps at disk. TLDP has greatly helped me to create it. Thank you!

2004 ... wow this is some

Anonymous's picture

2004 ... wow this is some kind of historic document right here ;)
greets, Leupold Luftreiniger


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Thank you

adtech's picture

Thank you


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TLDP down?

Henning Sprang's picture

What happened to the TLDP?

Since weeks, I only get Server timeouts ("Firefox can't find the server at") when trying to access the tldp.

What's up with it?


Inside TLDP: setting things straight

Anonymous's picture

- According to an excerpt from the mailinglist archive that was sent to me, Guylhem took over from Lars only in 1999.

- There are a couple of things left out, since this is an article and not a book:
* Rise and fall of the Open Source Writers Group;
* David Merrill, creator and maintainer of the LDP database and developer of LDP tools, deserves credit but is not mentioned - but on the other hand there are many others who did fantastic work and are not mentioned here. I hope these people understand the context of this article and know that I am thinking about them, eventhough they are not all listed by name;

- Note the difference between old documents that are unmaintained and documents that deal with old(er) concepts or old hardware but that are still being maintained;

- I might have given the impression that Guylhem took over a floundering organization, but this is not so. Lars, his predecessor, was working on major changes, including an automated submission system for updates - however this was never finished;

- Not all printed copies of TLDP docs were copies of the complete collection.


Re: Inside TLDP: setting things straight

Anonymous's picture

The historical record of the "core team" has been preserved AND the current structure is available from:



Anonymous's picture

The LDP has been a valuable resource to many, despte the issues with outdated documents you mentioned. Thanks for all your time and effort on the project.

old documents and tldp in general

Anonymous's picture


The TLDP is actively working on improving its collection and removing anything old and redundant.

But for this kind of thing we need help, volunteer work doesn't happen by itself.

So if anyone finds spare time feel free to contribute to the TLDP....

current ltdp contributor


Bruce Byford's picture

I just contributed to TLDP about 2 weeks ago but haven't received an acknowledgment yet. Could you please look into it?

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