Arch Linux is an independently developed, i686/x86-64 general purpose GNU/Linux distribution versatile enough to suit any role. Development focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and code elegance. Arch is installed as a minimal base system, configured by the user upon which their own ideal environment is assembled by installing only what is required or desired for their unique purposes. GUI configuration utilities are not officially provided, and most system configuration is performed from the shell by editing simple text files. Based on a rolling-release model, Arch strives to stay bleeding edge, and typically offers the latest stable versions of most software.
Arch Linux was founded by Canadian programmer Judd Vinet. Its first formal release, Arch Linux 0.1, was on March 11, 2002. Although Arch is completely independent, it draws inspiration from the simplicity of other distributions including Slackware, CRUX and BSD. In 2007, Judd Vinet stepped down as Project Lead to pursue other interests and was replaced by Aaron Griffin who continues to lead the project today.
See also: History of Arch Linux.
Following The Arch Way philosophy, Arch Linux is lightweight, flexible, simple and aims to be very UNIX-like. A minimal environment (no GUI) compiled for i686/x86-64 architectures is provided upon installation: rather than tearing out unneeded and unwanted packages, the power user is offered the ability to build up from a minimal foundation without any preemptively-chosen defaults. Arch's design philosophy and implementation make it easy to extend and mold into whatever kind of system is required, from a minimalist console machine to the most grandiose and feature-rich desktop environments available: it is the user who decides what his Arch system will be.
Arch's simple init system is heavily inspired by the *BSD way of incorporating calls from a single file (rc.conf) rather than the SysVinit directory structure containing dozens of symlinks for each runlevel. System configuration is achieved through editing simple text files.
Arch Linux strives to maintain the latest stable version of its software, and is based on a rolling-release system, which allows a one-time installation and continuous seamless upgrades, without ever having to reinstall or perform elaborate system upgrades from one version to the next. By issuing one command, an Arch system is kept up-to-date and on the bleeding edge.
Arch incorporates many of the newer features available to GNU/Linux users, including modern filesystems (Ext2/3/4, Reiser, XFS, JFS), LVM2/EVMS, software RAID, udev support and initcpio, as well as the latest available kernels.
Arch is backed by pacman, an easy-to-use binary package manager that allows you to upgrade your entire system with one command. Pacman is coded in C and designed from the ground up to be lightweight, simple and very fast. Arch also provides the Arch Build System, a ports-like system to make it easy to build and install packages from source, which can also be synchronized with one command. You can even rebuild your entire system with one command.
Supporting i686 and x86-64 architectures, Arch's Official Repositories provide several thousands of high-quality packages to meet your software demands. In addition, Arch encourages community growth and contribution by offering the Arch User Repository, which contains many thousands of user-maintained PKGBUILD scripts for compiling installable packages from source using the makepkg application. It is also possible for users to easily build and maintain their own custom repositories.
Arch provides non-patched, vanilla software; packages are offered from pure upstream sources, how the author originally intended it to be distributed. Patching only occurs in extremely rare cases, to prevent severe breakage in the instance of version mismatches that may occur within a rolling release model.
The Arch community is very dependable, lively and welcoming: all Archers are encouraged to participate and contribute to the distribution, be it helping with the development of the core software, maintaining packages, reporting or fixing bugs, improving the ArchWiki documentation, helping other users solving problems or just exchanging opinions in the forums, mailing lists, IRC Channels, or sharing one's knowledge or even self-developed applications. Arch Linux is the operating system of choice for many people around the globe, and there exist several international communities that offer help and provide documentation in many different languages.
See Getting Involved if you feel you want to become an active member of the community.
To summarize: Arch Linux is a versatile and simple distribution designed to fit the needs of the competent Linux® user. It is both powerful and easy to manage, making it an ideal distro for servers and workstations. Take it in any direction you like: if you share this vision of what a GNU/Linux distribution should be, then you are welcomed and encouraged to use it freely, get involved, and contribute to the community. Welcome to Arch!