I talk quite a bit about Linux going “mainstream” in this blog. The mainstream thought on Mainstream Adoption is that a “mainstream” thing is something that is familiar to the masses. According to the wikipedia, mainstream is:
- Something that is ordinary or usual
- Something that is familiar to the masses
- Something that is available to the general public
Linux has #3 down. I’d also argue that it is becoming “the usual” in quite a few areas of business and computing…so we partially have #1…but Linux will never be ‘ordinary’ as it’s only ordinary if you use it that way. #2 is where Linux hasn’t made complete progress. It’s well on its way to doing this.
I give this definition because I want to clarify that when I say I want Linux to “go mainstream,” I’m speaking of it becoming familiar to the masses. I don’t care about businesses or money or markets or anything else when I speak about the mainstream adoption of Linux. The reason I don’t care about Linux in business or the market value or channels of Linux service providers is because even if all of these things didn’t exist…Linux would still be there on my desktop…and if Linux didn’t exist, none of those markets, channels, or businesses that base themselves on Linux would be there. They are completely reliant upon Linux; but the opposite isn’t true. Therefore, I don’t care much about directions they want to see Linux go. Nor do I care about how much money Linux is valued at or how much money it can make people. I just want to see use of Linux spread. The more people that use Linux, the better off Linux will become…if not for more people that Linux will inspire to become active in projects then for making more noise if some piece of hardware (like a printer) doesn’t work in Linux. Perhaps if there are more voices in our chorus, people and businesses alike will have a harder time not listening to the music.
Despite my earlier notions that Linux and mainstreaming are a bad combination, I’ve switched to the school of thought that Linux becoming mainstream is a logical progression of growth. Especially considering that anyone using Linux doesn’t have the right to stifle this growth…linux is what linux does with or without our opinions and stances on matters. After all, open source is OPEN…for everyone…and if we’re speaking FOSS, then it’s free for everyone too. That means we don’t have a right to keep someone from using Linux nor do we have the right to keep Linux from someone…so mainstream, here Linux comes
Is mainstreaming Linux a good idea? Perhaps not? Who can tell? Opinions run rampant. The bottom line is that it will happen whether we want it to or not. The more popularity something gains, the more it appeals en masse. With Ubuntu pushing Linux onto many people’s desktops during the past year, Linux is well on its way to mainstream. Do you want to be along for the ride? Do you want to get off before Linux leaves for that port of destination? Where do you fit in on the itinerary of Linux?
Some people really don’t want Linux to proliferate to the desktop with mainstream adoption. Why wouldn’t they? Some people want to see Linux stay the way it was during its early years. That’s fine too…there’s room for these people. Linux and FOSS is inclusive, not exclusive (unless you have any proprietary parts in you…then we’ll have to ask you to leave ). For those that want Linux to stay the same, welcome! Stay with us…watch where Linux goes and see if it suits you as it grows and changes a few months or years down the line. Perhaps then, you’ll get back on the train and travel with us. If not, your stop is here. Go ahead and stay where you are…just don’t try to hold up anyone else.
The goal of desktop Linux should be to continue doing what it is doing: to continue to be open source…to continue to be Free…and to continue to grow. Subsequently, it will have to continue to become mainstream…whether we like it or not. Will you be along for the ride cheering it on? Or will you be waiting at the stop making fun of all the people that are riding until you sheepishly join them one day in the future? I hope to see you on the trip…it’s going to be quite a ride I think.
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