Why Does Everyone Hate Ubuntu?: Page 3

Posted November 25, 2009

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield

(Page 3 of 3)

The fact is that Ubuntu is a relative newcomer that, in six years, has pushed itself to the top of the free software pack. Following its ambitions, it has not always considered existing factions in the community as well as it might, either in its practices or its design.

But that is not to say that the ire of the old-timers is completely justified, either. The same groups that complain can also show an inconsistent pride in Ubuntu's successes at making free software more mainstream.

The three ages of success

American fantasist Harlan Ellison once said that the successful go through three periods of public reception. When they first burst on to the scene, the successful are feted and acclaimed. In the second, they are criticized harshly and often unfairly. But, if they persevere, they are accepted as an institution, and the criticism subsides.

Collectively, I suspect, Ubuntu is now in the second stage. The honeymoon, in which the majority saw Ubuntu as free software's best hope, is long over. Instead, Ubuntu is at a point where, in some circles, it can do no right -- and the third stage is nowhere in sight.

On his blog, Bacon argues that "criticism is a sign of success." He has a point, but I think it would be more accurate to say that, in Ubuntu's case, criticism is a sign of partial success.

From the beginning, Ubuntu set out to make desktop Linux succeed. It has done much to reach that goal, improving usability, adding features, and shaking older projects out of their complacency.

The trouble is, having created high expectations, Ubuntu has not finished meeting them. The initial excitement created by Ubuntu's bold goals has died away, and world domination -- the half- serious goal of free software -- is only somewhat closer. Disillusion, or at least resigned realism, has set in. Many are disappointed, and in a mood to magnify faults and present half-truths as completely accurate. And these reactions are exaggerated still further by journalists looking for controversial headlines.

Ubuntu should manage to weather such criticism. However, commercial success and improved testing might not be enough. Considering the passion found in the free software community, Ubuntu might also need to find a middle way between ignoring criticisms completely and accepting them as problems that need immediate action.

Until it can find that middle way, Ubuntu is likely to continue the way it is now, fair game for anyone with a grievance, regardless of whether that grievance is completely justified or not.

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Tags: open source, Linux

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