Top Linux Trends 2012-2013 Page 3: Page 3

What stories trended in 2012? Which ones will affect open source next year? The answer is not always obvious -- and some stories have been under-reported.
Posted December 11, 2012

Bruce Byfield

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5. The Lessening Influence of Free Software

The influence of free software ideals in the community peaked with the consultation for the writing of the third version of the GNU General Public License in 2005-2007. However, the consultation failed to win a consensus, and free software advocacy has declined in influence over the last five years.

In response, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has rallied its supporters over the last few years. It held an annual conference and organized GNU Generation, a group to encourage young adults to become involved with free software advocacy.

But while these efforts have produced a small circle of dedicated and enthusiastic advocates, the FOSS community as a whole is currently tilting towards the more pragmatic, more business-friendly open source perspective.

The main reason for this change may be that free software advocates are only now starting to become involved in social media, online services, and mobile devices -- all of which play an increasing role in computing. Consequently, statements like those made by Richard Stallman, the FSF's founder, about Ubuntu's affiliate deal with Amazon are easily dismissed as being out of touch, especially when they are made two months after the story originally broke.

However, what was significant about the free software position in 2012 was that it produced no significant story. Not too many years ago, that would have been unimaginable.

6. Feminism Moves to the Mainstream

Feminist voices have been heard in FOSS for years. However, 2012 was the year in which it became influential for the first time.

True, misogyny is still expressed and defended on Reddit and Slashdot. But if the same sentiments are uttered by corporation or community leaders, they are being answered with anger -- often, thanks to social media, within minutes of the remarks.

Just as importantly, women started to get organized to teach other women how to code and to survive in the community. By far the most successful of these efforts is GNOME's Outreach Program for Women, whose mentoring-for-success techniques have become so effective that the program is now being extended to other FOSS projects.

Other feminist resources include the Geek Feminist Wiki, which has assembled a thorough collection of information about all aspects of its subject. A variety of blogs suggest how and why to find more female speakers at conferences. The Ada Initiative, a full-time feminist advocacy group, continues to promote anti-harassment policies at conferences, although it sometimes handicaps its own effectiveness through rash actions and statements.

(Disclaimer: I served briefly on the advisory board of The Ada Initiative. I resigned in November 2011.)

Probably no one organization or person is responsible for these signs of progress -- but that is the nature of grassroot efforts. Slowly, with some parts kicking and screaming, the FOSS community is becoming more welcoming to women. The changes visible over the last year are likely to become stronger in the next few years.

7. The Raspberry Pi Explosion

Both FOSS and the ARM architecture have played a major role in embedded devices for years. However, in 2012, this interaction took an unexpected direction with the release of Raspberry Pi, an ARM-based, GNU/Linux-loaded computer the size of a credit card available for under $50.

The FOSS community has ties to the Maker subculture, and many members still recall the attempts by One Laptop Per Child to develop an inexpensive computer a few years ago. However, nothing is comparable to the popularity of the Raspberry Pi. Almost overnight, sub-communities and websites sprung up, all full of suggestions and plans for how to use these machines.

Like Android before it, the Raspberry Pi may become an offshoot of Linux that becomes more popular and better known that its parent. Part of its popularity may be due to initial restrictions upon the number that could be purchased at one time, but with that restriction lifted, the interest shows few signs of slowing, and is likely to continue throughout 2013 and beyond.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, Gnome, KDE, FOSS, trends

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