Mark Shuttleworth: Canonical leads Ubuntu, not 'your whims'

'I have no interest in being 1337'


After several months without posting, Mark Shuttleworth has returned to his official blog with some harsh words for those in the Ubuntu community who have been critical of Canonical's recent efforts to transform the OS into a multi-faceted platform for mobile devices and the cloud.

"If you've done what you want for Ubuntu, then move on," Shuttleworth wrote on Thursday morning. "That's normal – there's no need to poison the well behind you just because you want to try something else."

Clearly miffed by critics who say Canonical has wielded too much control over Ubuntu development of late, Shuttleworth called such comments "nonsense," adding that it is the combination of Canonical and the Ubuntu community that make the OS great.

At the same time, he described Canonical's contribution to the project as "massive," and he cautioned other contributors not to expect Ubuntu to function as a purely community-driven Linux distro – because to Shuttleworth's mind, that kind of development model simply doesn't work for a project as ambitious as Ubuntu.

"There are lots of pure community distro's. And wow, they are full of politics, spite, frustration, venality and disappointment," he wrote.

Shuttleworth said his goal is for Ubuntu to be not just another hobbyist Linux variant, but a serious challenger to the likes of Android, Apple, Chrome, and Windows. Achieving that, he said, would take leadership.

"By 2009 I was convinced that none of the existing free software communities could create an experience that could challenge the existing proprietary leaders," Shuttleworth wrote, "and so, if we were serious about the dream of a free software norm, we would have to lead."

So far, that leadership has manifested itself in Unity – Canonical's controversial desktop GUI that has divided users – and more recently in a grand vision of an Ubuntu client OS that can scale to suit every device form factor, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and smart TVs.

Along the way, Canonical has made decisions that have angered many in the Ubuntu community, such as inserting paid links to Amazon into Ubuntu's desktop search results. Feathers were ruffled yet again on Monday, when the company announced plans to write new display-server software to replace the venerable X Windowing System, ignoring other, similar projects already underway.

But while Shuttleworth says he understands that some in the community will be resentful of the "disruptive change" that Canonical has brought to Ubuntu and the Linux world at large, he believes that if you're not on board with Unity and Canonical's broader vision, it's probably because you're stuck in and old-school geek mentality that has no place in Ubuntu.

"I simply have zero interest in the crowd who wants to be different. Leet. 'Linux is supposed to be hard so it's exclusive' is just the dumbest thing that a smart person could say," Shuttleworth wrote.

To Shuttleworth, Ubuntu isn't about catering to hobbyists, but about building an open source OS that is so compelling that free software becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

"What I'm really interested in is this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a free and open platform that is THE LEADER across both consumer and enterprise computing," he wrote.

Shuttleworth added that there is plenty of room for developers who are on board with that vision to make positive contributions to Ubuntu, in all sorts of areas.

"Just roll your eyeballs at the 1337 crowd, roll up your sleeves, find something interesting to improve, and join in," Shuttleworth wrote. "To the extent that you can master a piece, you will get what you want. If you think the grand vision should follow your whims, you won't." ®


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