Open Source

A house divided: Linux factions threaten success

Linux is at a major tipping point, yet it faces being undermined from within. Jack Wallen calls for the Linux community to end the fighting between the Linux camps.

It seems you can't throw a stick these days without hitting one Linux "camp" hating another. One camp hates Canonical and Ubuntu, one camp hates GNOME, another hates FOSS and Richard Stallman, and yet another hates any given piece of proprietary software that might find its way onto the, otherwise, open source desktop.

From my perspective, that is not only counter to what Linux should stand for, it's a major stumbling block for the heights of success Linux could actually reach.

Instead of the Linux community cheering Ubuntu on for the success they have started to taste on the desktop and the business world, they are lashing out for Ubuntu to be forked and proclaiming Canonical to be insolvent. Instead of backing the product they helped to build, they are jumping the shark and proclaiming the Linux desktop dead.

I have one simple question to ask...

What good does it do Linux as a whole for it's constituent parts to hope for the other parts to fail? Is it done in the hopes that X's failure will be Y's success? Has it reached a point that Ubuntu and Linux Mint see one another as competition?

I get it; we all want our distribution of choice to be a huge success. We want to be a part of that something special when Linux finally breaks through the veil it's been peering through for over a decade. But here's the problem: I'm not sure Linux can break through that veil if it continues to be served by such a fragmented community.

Yes, I understand — there are people out there that don't agree with how some distributions have changed. So what? It's a dog-eat-dog world out there in the IT industry and every company needs as much of an edge as they can get. If that means taking a lot of decisions in-house, then so be it. But if the Linux community continues to isolate those distributions who currently teeter on the very special precipice (of success), it is possible they could prevent those distributions from making a dive into very successful waters.

This is not where Linux should be and it's a shame there are distributions and sub-communities out there doing everything they can to prevent other distributions from garnering success. Seriously — who cares which Linux distribution makes it, so long as one does.

Right now, there are two platforms that have achieved real, tangible success: Android and Chrome. Both of those platforms are driven by Google. Think about that for a moment. Put that into your compiler and see what it kicks out. For the longest time Google was the kid on the playground who it was popular to hate. Did Google care? Not one bit. Google just did whatever it had to in order to get where it needed to go. Now its Chromebook has pretty much shown the world that a flavor of Linux can succeed on the desktop.

Ubuntu is now the favorite kid to hate. Who's next? Linux Mint? Debian? Fedora? Bodhi? Ubuntu is either going to massively succeed or tragically fail. When either happens, another distribution will come along and try to either repeat their success or succeed where they failed.

I have another option to offer.

What if the whole of Linux got together and finally realized that when one succeeds, we all succeed. The world (especially those in and around the Microsoft camp) have said for years that Linux would never succeed. What the Linux community (as a whole) needs to do is band together and prove them wrong. Now is the perfect time for that. With Android and Chrome already enjoying some serious success, it only stands to reason that another distribution could come in, as a full-blown desktop solution, and fill in the gaps left by a mobile Linux solution and a browser-based Linux solution.

Who cares which one it is, so long as it happens.

Let it be Ubuntu, or Mint, or Fuduntu, or Fedora, or Bodhi, or whatever flavor of the month is in vogue. I don't care. I long ago set aside my political and legal issues with Linux and simply focused on what needs to happen for Linux — as a whole — to finally make it. At this particular moment, what needs to happen is for every member of the Linux community to come together and cheer one another on. Once one of the distributions has reached that pinnacle of success, all the others will be able to bask in its glory and hop a ride on the penguin's coattails.

That will never happen if the various distributions (and developers and fans of those distributions) continue to pour vitriol into the Kool-Aid.

So, what do you say, do you think you can set aside all those differences that are in the way of seeing the similarities? We all want the same thing — for Linux to succeed.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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