The interest in random fiber lasers (RFLs), first demonstrated one decade ago, is still growing and their basic characteristics have been studied by several authors. RFLs are open systems that present instabilities in the intensity fluctuations due to the energy exchange among their non-orthogonal quasi-modes. In this work, we present a review of the recent investigations on the output characteristics of a continuous-wave erbium-doped RFL, with an emphasis on the statistical behavior of the emitted intensity fluctuations. A progression from the Gaussian to Lévy and back to the Gaussian statistical regime was observed by increasing the excitation laser power from below to above the RFL threshold. By analyzing the RFL output intensity fluctuations, the probability density function of emission intensities was determined, and its correspondence with the experimental results was identified, enabling a clear demonstration of the analogy between the RFL phenomenon and the spin-glass phase transition in disordered magnetic systems. A replica-symmetry-breaking phase above the RFL threshold was characterized and the glassy behavior of the emitted light was established. We also discuss perspectives for future investigations on RFL systems.
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