It’s been a week since FreeBSD 5.0 got released. Many argue that this release is the most important and most technically advanced, ever, for FreeBSD. I am truly disapointed though on the way the media have responded to this release.Except the *BSD news sites, OSNews, Slashdot, a few Mac news sites (mostly because of the OSX-BSD connection) and a small number of Linux news sites, none of the big “pro” news sites reported on the release. It was a negative surprise to not see eWeek or ZDNews and News.com report on the release. BusinessWeek, InfoWorld and the rest of the “high-end pro” news sites didn’t report about it either.
This situation really saddens me, and I am not particularly a FreeBSD user (I don’t claim to reboot to it more than once or twice a month on my personal box – however our home router/server box does run happily FreeBSD). But no matter how I look at it, this release was really important, FreeBSD 5.0 features SMP and MT technology not found on other OSes.
Instead, we see Linux making headlines for every little thing that’s happening to it. And if you think that “FreeBSD is not as popular”, then think again. FreeBSD is as important as other Unices out there, which do make headlines from time to time, plus it has more userbase/installbase than Lindows, Lycoris (and even BeOS back in the day). Heck, even Bitstream donating 10 puny fonts made headlines around the web, while the 5.0 release didn’t.
The difference here is the PR/marketing people. There is no doubt in my mind that the news regarding FreeBSD should have been big on all these tech sites, just because FreeBSD does have the required installbase to look important. The problem, I believe, does not only lie in the editors of these news sites who aren’t able to distinguish the important news from hype. The blame is also on the FreeBSD project which didn’t release a registered press release via newswire. At least I didn’t see one (no, this is not a PR). Even the KDE, Gnome and other OSS projects have “PR people” who roll out press releases. In fact, KDE is issuing press releases even for betas, because this greatly help with the project looking responsible to the media and to its users.
I remember that in the past the FreeBSD project had a warmer reception from the media, I believe that the project needs to work on their communication skills a bit. The fact that “people work for free, for fun” doesn’t excuse the fact that they could do better and ask for some exposure. More exposure, means more users and developers, which eventually means more life and evolution for the project itself (more explanation here regarding this).
Since Jordan Hubbard left to work for Apple, the project seems to many people a bit isolated. FreeBSD has lost its “leader” and its main spokeperson. I believe that this is also one of the reasons behind this “black out of FreeBSD news”.
No, FreeBSD is not dead (TM). It just needs to work on its communication skills and get the word out. And of course, it also needs to overturn somehow the whole Linux hype engine, which could be blocking it from “looking as important” in the eyes of the net population. And these editors at these news sites, should re-evaluate as to “what sells and what not”.