Why does WhatsApp use FreeBSD?

In every WhatsApp “success story” article, I notice that they all mention that WhatsApp runs FreeBSD.

I don’t see what is advantage of running FreeBSD compared to running some mainstream Linux distro like some Debian derivitiave or RHEL. It seems to me that documentation and support will be somewhat worse for FreeBSD.

They seem to have moved away from that in order to fit better in with the rest of meta. > WhatsApp moved away from FreeBSD to Linux. I'm a former WhatsApp server engine... | Hacker News

See also this thread on running elixir on FreeBSD vs Linux. Linux vs FreeBSD for Phoenix? - #12 by Mandemus


FreeBSD is a great system. I’m running one since 7 years and had no problems.

The main reason, thought, might be that Jan Koum was a FreeBSD expert.


I was using FreeBSD, TrueOS / PC-BSD (and other BSD variants), and I had four, main complaints:

  • Out of the box, desktop environment was just less responsive and slower than GNU/Linux.
  • I didn’t had great experience using FreeBSD Ports.
  • I prefer / I am used to GNU Coreutils; I am not very fond of BSD variant / equivalent.
  • Until ZFS happened, there was UFS2, and it was so-so. GEOM came quite late with its journaling.

I need to admit, though, I didn’t gave it a shot since 10 years or so. :slight_smile:

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The discussions I’ve seen around it on HN mention that it’s much easier to maintain and secure it, but there’s a lot of headaches for library usage.

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How so?

I used FreeBSD as a server OS for my rack server. It is easy to maintain, setup and run. I never used it as a desktop OS, so I have no experience there.

I think this would be the biggest complaint for me too. I’m just too accustomed to GNU Coreutils. Though I believe that there is a way use GNU Coreutils on Unix (at least for Macs, which are Unix).

I’ll have to find the thread. That was just the sentiment from the HN crowd.

+1 for this - folks spend a lot of time trying to discover deep technical reasons for decisions that often come down to “we need to use SOMETHING and our CEO has deep experience deploying WHATEVER_THING so let’s use that”.

The other popular-but-often-overlooked reason is “because implementing it was a hassle and the person who was willing to do it wanted to use WHATEVER_THING because it was shiny”; for instance, the choice of Scala over other JVM languages at Twitter for performance-critical parts.


During the 2000’s, FreeBSD had a more performant tcp stack and many high-traffic websites used it. Considering that Whatsapp ran on a small set of big servers, picking FreeBSD certainly doesn’t seem out of line. I’m not sure if Linux tcp stack has ever surpassed it. For instance, Netflix still uses FreeBSD to serve video.



Why does WhatsApp use FreeBSD?

They don’t :lol:

As mentioned by others they moved to Linux. There have been a few threads about it, think this was one of the most recent:

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