posted by Jed Reynolds on Thu 30th Sep 2004 18:54 UTC

"Eliminating Choice, Page 2/2"
I think the scope of the issue is much larger than the software selection in today's Linux distro. That can be changed rapidly if people desired. However, the scope of software adoption and use is changing: the barriers to software development are lowering rapidly. Use is increasing because the variety of solutions, or opportunity for low cost, customized solutions is more affordible for small businesses. FOSS has made this happen.

The last time you were in an old barn, did you stop to pick up the tongs that were forged by the blacksmith that lived on the property? The hayfork constructed from branches taken off the property? FOSS software is an expression of the antithesis of software consumerism, it is an expression of software self reliance. (And I think that small businesses that grasp the role of FOSS perpetuate these benefits.)

The anxiety people feel about Linux not being as good of a desktop as Windows or Mac only casts Linux and FOSS in those corporate terms. This anxiety will evaporate as people realize that FOSS is an expression of their growing self reliance to build their own software solutions...not a race to compete with or to be validated in likeness or corporate software offerings. However, this conciousness will take a generation or two to really sink in.

Russo writes, "What the leaders must do is make their choices based on what is good for the Linux community in the long term." I would think that this is argument is really only pertinent to the short term. The long term success of Linux is the long term success of Open Source. It is so assured that we need not worry about it (unless you're concerned about freedom of speach). Neither does Linux derive its long term success from its leaders--it derives its long term success from its users. Were the "leaders of Linux" to steer their distros into a brick wall of incompatible features, users would move on and demand solutions the met their needs (or if motivated, create their own solutions). Already, this unbounded creativity is what we are seeing today.

Neither draw analogy to the success of Windows with its protracted set of choices to a success created by Linux similarly limited. Linux is in an entirely different marketplace: one where FOSS is present and clearly a more viable long term solution than many corporate software solutions. Linux is out-competing Windows in legitimate low end markets and provides stability by freeing the user from the costly and traumatic cycle of file format obsolecense.

Limiting choice in current Linux distros to be more like Windows might increase Linux vendor's short term market share. However, limiting choice in the realm of Open Source just isn't in the nature of Open Source, and is not going to occur in the long term time frame. So, limiting choice in Linux will not occur in the long term at all. Even by not limiting choice in the short term will Linux adoption not fail to grow...it just might not grow as fast in the same niches Windows fills. Linux isn't going to suddenly disappear. That it's Open Source...no one will let it!

The long term success of Linux, or any Open Source software, is in its adoption and stewardship by users who want it. As software is developed across the globe in other countries, our grandchildren will live in a software culture molded by a new most common demonator in software...the lowest common demoninator becomes FOSS (not Microsoft).

Furthermore, the diversity of Linux distributions and FOSS applications we see today will be dwarfed by the selection present in fifty years. Those people who grow up in an environment of Open Source won't feel any anxiety about this breadth of choice...they would be alarmed to see it disappear.

About the Author
Jed Reynolds tries not to spend too much time on his computer at home, so he can concentrate on his family. He has been a programmer, system administrator and Linux user since 1992.


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Table of contents
  1. "Eliminating Choice, Page 1/2"
  2. "Eliminating Choice, Page 2/2"
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