With Mac OS X Tiger, "launchd" is now pid 1:
$ ps ajxw |sort -n +1| head USER PID PPID PGID SESS JOBC STAT TT TIME COMMAND root 1 0 1 166ae88 0 S<s ?? 0:02.76 /sbin/launchd root 28 1 28 166ac60 0 Ss ?? 0:00.01 /sbin/dynamic_pager -F /private/var/vm/swapfile root 32 1 32 166ab4c 0 Ss ?? 0:01.79 kextd root 36 1 36 166aa38 0 Ss ?? 0:06.28 /usr/sbin/configd root 37 1 37 166a924 0 Ss ?? 0:01.23 /usr/sbin/coreaudiod root 38 1 38 166a810 0 Ss ?? 0:01.62 /usr/sbin/diskarbitrationd root 39 1 39 166a6fc 0 Ss ?? 0:00.06 /usr/sbin/memberd -x root 40 1 40 166a5e8 0 Ss ?? 0:00.95 /usr/sbin/securityd root 42 1 42 166a4d4 0 Ss ?? 0:01.50 /usr/sbin/notifyd
Quite obviously, it is filling the role that init plays on System V systems. It is also intended to replace rc scripts (from the man page):
NOTES In Darwin it is preferable to have your daemon launch via launchd instead of modifying rc or creating a SystemStarter Startup Item. At some point in the future, we hope to completely phase out the use of rc.
It's even taken over some things that used to be done by cron such as running "perodic":
$ cat /etc/crontab # The periodic and atrun jobs have moved to launchd jobs # See /System/Library/LaunchDaemons #
Oddly, you'll find apparent duplication of content in /System/Library/LaunchDaemons and /etc/xinetd.d files.
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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:
Take Control of Apple Mail
Take Control of Your Paperless Office
iOS 8: A Take Control Crash Course
Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, Third Edition
Take Control of Launchbar