The FOSS ecosystem is messy. There are thousands upon thousands
of projects, from slapdash learning attempts to highly-polished
commercially-supported applications. There is redundancy and
overlap. Sourceforge and other public repositories are littered
with abandonware. What makes some projects attract contributors and
become successful, while other wither away? Who knows. What I do
know is all of this splendid chaotic ferment is exactly what makes
FOSS so strong.
You've probably heard that FOSS is too fragmented and it needs
consolidation. One Distro To Rule Them All. One interpreted
language, one compiled language, one mad good rapid development
platform, one killer office suite, and so on. Put all that
fragmented energy behind a select few projects, and in no time
we'll conquer all. Or something like that.
There is some merit to this, and I think it is a good idea for
anyone who wants to make a contribution to FOSS to look around for
an existing project to join, instead of creating yet another Linux
Web site, or yet another Ubuntu-derived Linux distribution, or yet
another development framework, or yet another BitTorrent
But doing your own thing isn't necessarily bad. It is a learning
experience, and that is always good. Once you get deeply into
something new you can't predict where it will lead, and it might go
somewhere very cool.
Pinning Our Hopes and Dreams on Canonical
The nomination for #1 One Distro To Rule Them All is nearly always
Ubuntu, and it seems that a lot of people have high expectations
for Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth. An Ubuntu desktop PC in every
home and classroom, super-amazing high-quality for free, and Mr.
Shuttleworth personally throwing a chair at Steve Ballmer. Mr.
Shuttleworth and Canonical have performed amazing feats in a few
short years, but they're not the be-all of Linux. Suppose Ubuntu
does become the most amazing and splendid and wonderful Linux
ever-- is that the end? Of course not, because there is no end. It
takes competition to produce the best software, just like anything
And no matter how superior Ubuntu becomes, Gentoo, Slackware,
Red Hat, Fedora, and Debian are more important because they are the
primal Linuxes. Everything else flows from them. They are the
progenitors, and are essential.
Let's also remember non-Linux FOSS operating systems such as
FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. From these also come herds of
wonderful things such as routers, firewalls, drivers, network
stacks, and stout high-demand servers. (Take a look at the
top servers on Netcraft.)
We don't need a savior. Saviors make us weak. "The most terrible
thing to befall a people is a hero." We need a strong, diverse
community chock-full of smart people creating interesting things.
Here's to creative chaos, and all the good things it brings us.