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The GNU C Library, commonly known as glibc, is the [[GNU Project]]'s implementation of the [[C standard library]]. Despite its name, it now also directly supports [[C++]] (and, indirectly, other [[programming languages]]). It was started in the 1980s by the [[Free Software Foundation]] (FSF) for their GNU
Released under the GNU Lesser General Public License
glibc is free software
. The GNU C Library project provides the core libraries for the GNU system and GNU/Linux systems, as well as many other systems that use Linux
as the kernel
. These libraries provide critical API
s including ISO C11
, OS-specific APIs and more. These APIs include such foundational facilities as open
The glibc project was initially written mostly by Roland McGrath
, working for the Free Software Foundation
(FSF) in the 1980s as a teenager.
In February 1988, FSF described glibc as having nearly completed the functionality required by ANSI C
. By 1992, it had the ANSI C-1989 and POSIX.1-1990 functions implemented and work was under way on POSIX.2.
In September 1995 Ulrich Drepper made his first contribution to the glibc project and over the 1990s gradually became the core contributor and maintainer of glibc. Drepper held the maintainership position for many years and until 2012 accumulated 63% of all commits to the project.
In the early 1990s, the developers of the Linux kernel forked
glibc. Their fork, "Linux libc", was maintained separately.
When the FSF released glibc 2.0 in January 1997, the kernel developers discontinued Linux libc due to glibc 2.0’s superior compliance with POSIX standards. glibc 2.0 also had better internationalisation
and more in-depth translation, IPv6
capability, 64-bit data access, facilities for multithreaded applications, future version compatibility, and the code was more portable.
The last-used version of Linux libc used the internal name (soname
) . Following on from this, glibc 2.x on Linux uses the soname (Alpha
architectures now use , instead). The *.so file name is often abbreviated as libc6 (for example in the package name in Debian
) following the normal conventions for libraries.
According to Richard Stallman
, the FSF could not merge the changes made in Linux libc into glibc due to vague authorship. The GNU project is quite strict about recording copyright and authors.
Installation of a steering committee
Starting in 2001 the library's development had been overseen by a committee, with Ulrich Drepper
kept as the lead contributor and maintainer. The steering committee
installation was surrounded by a public controversy as it was openly described by Ulrich Drepper as a failed hostile takeover
maneuver by Richard Stallman.
Migrated to Git, a distributed VCS
While previously in a CVS
repository, in 2009 glibc was migrated to a Git
(a distributed version control system) repository on ''Sourceware''.
Debian switches to EGLIBC and back
After longstanding controversies around Drepper's leadership style and external contribution acceptance,
switched publicly to the glibc fork EGLIBC
in 2009 and back to glibc with the Debian 8.0 (Jessie) release in April 2015.
Steering committee disbands
In March 2012, the steering committee voted to disband itself and remove Drepper in favor of a community-driven development process, with Ryan Arnold, Maxim Kuvyrkov, Joseph Myers, Carlos O'Donell, and Alexandre Oliva
holding the responsibility of GNU maintainership (but no extra decision-making power).
After the change in glibc maintainership, Debian and other projects that had switched to alternatives migrated back to glibc. From the beginning of 2014, the glibc fork EGLIBC is no longer being developed since its "goals are now being addressed directly in GLIBC".
In July 2017, 30 years after he started glibc, Roland McGrath announced his departure, "declaring myself maintainer emeritus and withdrawing from direct involvement in the project. These past several months, if not the last few years, have proven that you don't need me any more".
For most systems, the version of glibc can be obtained by executing the lib file (for example, /lib/libc.so.6).
glibc provides the functionality required by the Single UNIX Specification
(1c, 1d, and 1j) and some of the functionality required by ISO C11
, ISO C99
, Berkeley Unix
(BSD) interfaces, the System V Interface Definition
(SVID) and the X/Open Portability Guide
(XPG), Issue 4.2, with all extensions common to XSI (X/Open System Interface
) compliant systems along with all X/Open UNIX extensions.
In addition, glibc also provides extensions that have been deemed useful or necessary while developing GNU
Supported hardware and kernels
glibc is used in systems that run many different kernels
and different hardware
architectures. Its most common use is in systems using the Linux kernel
hardware, however, officially supported hardware includes: 32-bit ARM and its newer 64-bit ISA (AArch64)
, DEC Alpha
, Motorola m68k
, Nios II
, and x86
(old versions support TILE
). It officially supports the Hurd
kernels. Additionally, there are heavily patched versions that run on the kernels of FreeBSD
(from which Debian GNU/kFreeBSD
and Debian GNU/NetBSD
systems are built, respectively), as well as a forked-version of OpenSolaris
. It is also used (in an edited form) and named in BeOS
Use in small devices
glibc has been criticized as being "bloated
" and slower than other libraries in the past, e.g. by Linus Torvalds
and embedded Linux
programmers. For this reason, several alternative C standard libraries
have been created which emphasize a smaller footprint. However, many small-device projects use GNU libc over the smaller alternatives because of its application support, standards compliance, and completeness. Examples include Openmoko
and Familiar Linux
for iPaq handhelds (when using the GPE
There are compatibility layer
") to allow programs written for other ecosystems to run on glibc interface offering systems. These include libhybris
, a compatibility layer for Android's Bionic
, and Wine
, which can be seen as compatibility layer from Windows
APIs to glibc and other native APIs available on Unix-like systems.
* Linux kernel API
Category:C standard library
Category:Cross-platform free software
Category:Free computer libraries
Category:Free software programmed in C
Category:Interfaces of the Linux kernel