Forked from the Net/2 & 386BSD code base, 6 months after NetBSD was started. The focus of FreeBSD was performance on i386 systems. Over time support was added for the DEC Alpha as this meant porting the code base to a 64bit systems and addressing any bugs which would prevent the code base from running on a 64bit system. Many years later the project branched out and introduced support for additional platforms. Today the project boasts support for CPUs such as ARMv8, RISC-V and BERI.
FreeBSD is the home to many innovations, such as:
Ports is a framework for building software. It abstracts away different build
systems to provide a common workflow to the user, regardless of the software
being built and installed. This frees the user to request the software they
desire and for the system to compute dependencies and ensure they are built and
installed as well.
Developers and contributors create recipes to install different pieces of software. These recipes or ports as they are called contain such information as where the source code is hosted, which dependencies the software requires to build and run, patches to ensure the software integrates correctly with the operating system. Ports for each piece of software are stored in individual directories of their own, organised in categories of the functionality they provide.
For a user to build and install one of these packages they would change into the relevant directory & run make install. This can be a consuming process depending on the system being built on but binary packages are of course offered as standard, allowing this process to be bypassed entirely unless desired. While such functionality may be a given on operating systems of today, this has been a standard feature since the early 1990s.
The jail mechanism, a form of operating system level virtualisation, allows partitions to be created on a system where a binary and associated dependencies or a full copy of the base OS and more can run in isolation, hence the title jail. Over the years jail has grown new features such as the ability to nest jails within each other, creating a Matryoshka doll like effect with jails.