A few days back I ran a couple of posts titled Switch to Ubuntu Linux not Mac OS and Mac OS is better than Ubuntu: A myth. Both the articles generated significant interest amongst readers and there were quite a few comments. Most of the comments were in favor of the Mac OS and against Ubuntu. That led me to conclude that the Mac OS user community is extremely loyal towards it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the Linux users.
Of course there were a few Linux users who defended Linux against the onslaught of comments from the Mac users, but they were far outnumbered. I thought that the Linux users were a loyal and dedicated group of people who were passionate about the technology and had a unified voice against proprietary systems. Sad to say but that apparently is not the case.
Why is that so? Probably the answer lies in the fragmentation that exists in the Linux community. There are a whole lot of Linux distributions available in the market and each have their own base of loyal users. But these users will not come to the defense of a Linux distribution or flavor which is other than their own. So with Ubuntu/Kubuntu, SuSE, Fedora, Linux Mint, Mandriva, and a plethora of other distributions around this fragmentation in user loyalty is hurting Linux and open source as a whole.
What is needed is a set of standards that would abide all the Linux distribution vendors together. Most versions of Linux run either Gnome or KDE as their windowing system. Most use a kernel that comes from a single source. But the package management systems do vary from flavor to flavor. We can argue the merits and demerits of each of these but we have to reach a standard approach. Proprietary systems like Windows and Mac OS do not have this problem. Apple and Microsoft can dream of any “feature” and then incorporate that in their system. Loathe it or like it those “features” remain with you. In case of Linux the user is the driver. He/She decides what they want to keep or discard. Though this choice makes Linux a lot more attractive to many, it appears intimidating to others. This is where we have to make things happen. This is where Linux needs to change.
There is not doubt that technically Linux is probably superior to both Windows and the Mac OS, but unfortunately user adoption rates are dismal. One of the major reasons is the lack of standards and the sooner the Linux community understands this the better for them.
The most common response to a proposal to use standards is “how are the vendors going to make money?”. Presence of standards does not tie vendors up. Rather it opens up newer opportunities for them. For instance if Linux comes up with a standard for package management, that would enforce a uniform binary distribution format for all Linux flavors. This is good because vendors do not have to release versions of their products for .deb, .rpm and other formats. Where Linux vendors can make their offerings more compelling is in defining good UI features, making file management easier, making program management better, etc. The opportunities are endless.
Standards are needed. Lets think of them as a common minimum program to which every Linux vendor subscribes. This would lead to greater interoperability between different distributions and also make it easier for people to choose. A common minimum program would guarantee certain features in all Linux systems. The rest is up to the Linux vendors