I’ve been holding my tongue on this issue for quite some time now. I’ve sat back and watched as so many in the Linux community have bristled and argued that Canonical (and thus, Ubuntu) are alienating the majority of the Linux community with their actions. Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth, and Ubuntu are being vilified as if they no longer care about being a part of the Linux, FOSS community. It seems every blog, developer, pundit, and fan has had their say on the issue — and most of those words are not kind.
Let me put this into a perspective that many of those exhibiting hatred have neglected to inject into their banter.
Canonical and Ubuntu have done more for getting Linux into mainstream desktops than any other distribution. Ubuntu has almost completely flattened the learning curve. Ubuntu has attracted companies that, otherwise, would never have considered Linux. Ubuntu has managed to put Linux on the precipice of a distribution that spans everything from servers to smartphones.
Canonical wants one thing for Ubuntu — mass adoption. In what way can that be construed as bad?
Let me outline what I think has happened:
- Ubuntu shunned GNOME for Unity — outcry was heard.
- Ubuntu decided they were going to go with the Wayland X Server and then realized it would be in the best interest of the long-term goals to roll their own X Server (Mir). Outcry was heard.
Unity was released in 11.04. By the time 12.04 came around, people weren’t so angry about Unity. In fact, many of those that hated Unity, at first, realized it wasn’t such a bad interface after all. I was one such user. It took very little time for me to realize that Unity was actually one of the more efficient desktops available.
This time around Canonical made a decision about which X Server would best suit the Ubuntu desktop going forward. They had their reasons; and to be quite honest, I trust their reasons. Above all, Xorg is way out of date and needs to be replaced. I don’t care which X Server is used, so long as it makes Ubuntu work and work well.
Honestly, here’s what I care about: I want to see Linux on desktops everywhere. I want to see Linux on desktops in the business world, at home, being used by kids, teens, adults, senior citizens, Vice Presidents, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers! If that is to happen, it will do so at the hands of Canonical and Ubuntu. Why? Because Canonical is the first company to make any serious headway on the desktop space. And, should the Ubuntu phone become a hit — that’s yet another inroad to mass acceptance.
I understand that there are people out there who feel slighted. The Wayland project would probably be at the top of the list. But there is one thing that everyone must understand — Canonical is a business and their business is to get Linux on desktops. Businesses have to make hard decisions that do not always please everyone. What’s important, however, is that we judge those decisions based on how effective they are at helping to achieve the end results. In this case, the end result for Canonical is creating a desktop Linux platform that can be used by anyone, on any hardware and still dwell within the auspices of open source.
As much as it pains me to say this, there is a lot of jealousy and bitterness out there. The success Ubuntu has had over the years has come at the price of other desktops and projects. That’s the nature of business. Maybe it’s hard for a good majority of the Linux community to accept the idea of “Linux” as a cog in the machine. But if you step back and look at the grand design, you should see that having Canonical and Ubuntu leading the charge, is probably the single best thing for Linux at the moment. Imagine where Linux would be without the foresight of Mark Shuttleworth and the user-friendliness of Ubuntu.
Should Canonical be thanked or shunned for their decisions?
I would venture to say Linux would be closer to the precipice of complete obscurity and not success.
Of course, that is not to say there are other projects who have worked hard to help bring Linux to this cusp: Apache, Samba, KDE, Compiz, GIMP, LibreOffice… the list goes on and on. But one project stands above the rest with regards to pushing Linux into a seriously successful future — that project is Ubuntu.