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As I understand, most Intel GPUs are supported on Linux by two different components : i965 (the Mesa/OpenGL part, supporting all recent Intel GPUs) and i915 (kernel part, similarly supporting all recent Intel GPUs).

The relationship between the two is not very clearly explained anywhere I found, especially now that names like iHD (for VAAPI), or Iris (newer chips) are mixed in, but essentially I understand that i965 uses features exposed from the kernel by i915 (syscalls/ioctls?) to expose the OpenGL API to applications.

While Why is the Intel HD Graphics driver called i915? answers the question about the kernel part, why use a similar yet different product name for the Mesa component that supports all Intel GPUs anyway? Is there a reason behind it, or just history?

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The Mesa i965 driver doesn’t support all Intel GPUs. There are two Mesa drivers corresponding to the i915 kernel driver: the i965 driver, which supports GPUs since Broadwater (aka 965), and the i915 driver, which supports older GPUs since Grantsdale (aka 915).

The i965 driver was contributed by Tungsten Graphics in Mesa 6.5.1.

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    That's the info I needed, thank you so much. The i915 Mesa driver seems very rarely mentioned nowadays in documentation (with good reason, it's old), and I was curious about the history ;)
    – F.X.
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 22:15

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