September 14, 2010, 1:40 PM — In recent weeks, Ubuntu has been criticized for not giving Linux enough support. Specifically, the complains have been that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, doesn't do enough for producing Linux source code. At first, Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu and Canonical's founder, was content to take the high-ground of broad issues, but now Shuttleworth has gotten more into the details of what he believes both he personally and Ubuntu has brought to Linux.
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In Shuttleworth's latest blog post, he wrote about how Ubuntu and Canonical has brought "the extraordinary generosity of the free software community to the world at large, as a gift, free of charge, unencumbered and uncrippled, and to do so sustainably."
Shuttleworth went on, "the Ubuntu Project does bring something unique, special and important to free software: a total commitment to everyday users and use cases, the idea that free software should be 'for everyone' both economically and in ease of use, and a willingness to chase down the problems that stand between here and there." He's right.
I've followed Linux almost since day one. A business user might think of Red Hat first if you asked him or her to name a Linux distribution, but if you ask anyone else, they're much more likely to say Ubuntu. Linux owes what popularity it has more to Ubuntu than any other distribution.
I might add, which Shuttleworth didn't spell out, that if you need help to do anything with Linux, you're more likely to find online help on how to do it on Ubuntu than openSUSE, Fedora, Debian, or any other Linux. Ubuntu's popularity combined with that attitude of helping everyday users get the most from Linux has made it the go-to Linux for users who want and need a helping hand.
Shuttleworth went on to write that, "It's been suggested that Canonical's efforts are self-directed and not of benefit to the broader open source community. That's a stinging criticism because most of us feel completely the opposite, we're motivated to do as much as we can to further the cause of free software to the benefit both of end-users and the community that makes it, and we're convinced that building Ubuntu and working for Canonical are the best ways to achieve that end."
To that claim, Shuttleworth replied that Canonical works for free software by "[Delivering] it. We reduce the friction and inertia that prevent people trying free software and deciding for themselves if they like it enough to immerse themselves in it. Hundreds of today's free software developers, translators, designers, advocates got the opportunity to be part of our movement because it was easy for them to dip their toe in the water. And that's not easy work."
I think that he's not claiming more than Canonical and Ubuntu's fair share. Shuttleworth is the first to admit that "Ubuntu, and the possibilities it creates, could not have come about without the extraordinary Linux community, which wouldn't exist without the GNU community, and couldn't have risen to prominence without the efforts of companies like IBM and Red Hat. And it would be a very different story if it weren't for the Mozilla folks and Netscape before them, and GNOME and KDE, and Google and everyone else who have exercised that stack in so many different ways, making it better along the way."
Shuttleworth concludes, "Free software is bigger than any one project. It's bigger than the Linux kernel, it's bigger than GNU, it's bigger than GNOME and KDE, it's bigger than Ubuntu and Fedora and Debian. Each of those projects plays a role, but it is the whole which is really changing the world. So when we start to argue with one another from the perspective of any one slice of free software, we run the risk of missing the bigger picture." Exactly.