Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ubuntu's 3rd Birthday & 7 Reasons To Fame

Ubuntu 7.10 was released 2 days back. I have used Ubuntu since the first version and have always loved working on it. According to most online surveys on Linux, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution. I don't completely rely on distrowatch's popularity list, but then it's a good indication of what Linux people are using when they visit distrowatch.

3 Happy Ubuntu Years

Ubuntu's first release was on 20th October 2004. Tomorrow will be Ubuntu's 3rd Birthday. Anyone who has heard Linux, knows the popularity that Ubuntu gained in a very short period of just 3 years. When it started, I remember Ubuntu to be just a fork from the Debian Team. The first released really didn't make me believe it'll be as big as it's today. But after the 2nd released and the publicity effort that was put into it, I knew it'll be the big distro in the coming years. Read about "The Ubuntu Story" for more.

We analyze a few reasons to the success of Ubuntu and think about what lies in the future for Ubuntu and open-source!!

7 Reasons For Ubuntu's Sucess

1.) Publicity: I attribute the biggest reasons for the success of Ubuntu to be it's marketing and well publicized effort. Not that Ubuntu is a good product. But even good quality stuff requires marketing, so that it atleast reaches the consumer's eye. Ubuntu's developer team as well as Mark Shuttleworth have done considerable amount of work to tell everyone about Ubuntu. Mark's money and effort has to be acknowledged in all this fame for Ubuntu.

2.) Philosophy: Ubuntu as a name is as much a philosophy as is open-source and freedom. Read here, about the interpretation of Ubuntu. The philosophy of helping the other person and the community is another very important reason for the sucess of Ubuntu. Ubuntu's philosophy is summarized in the 3 points from their own site:
  1. Every computer user should have the freedom to download, run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.

  2. Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.

  3. Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability.
3.) Free of cost: Another lame, but true explanation for the success of Ubuntu is it's free... and free here means you don't pay money!! You can easily think of all Linux's being free, but then we have had distros which require you to pay money. Some charge for support, some for software installation, some for the packaging. Ubuntu also has commercial support, but a strong community means you have a lot of people who want to help you solve the issues for free!!

4.) Ship It: Another important reason for the success of Ubuntu is that they ship CDs to you free of cost, anywhere around the world. Yeah, most people download it, but for the branding and logo stamped on the CD, a lot of people want it shipped. These CDs not only are good show-offs, but also are another form of publicity for Ubuntu. People who don't know the Linux world or Ubuntu, get curious when they find a CD with the nice Ubuntu logo and some nice guys/gals in a round formation... ;-)

5.) Synaptic (Apt): For people who thought Linux was tough and software installation was a pain, please use apt-get!! Installing software off the net was never so simple and apt-get is synonymous with installing anything on Ubuntu. It does all the dependency scanning and gets the packages installed on your computer. Fedora has yum, openSuSE has yast+online repositories, but there's something about apt that it requires lesser steps to install a package.

6.) Debian based: Not the most important reason, as there are host of other debain-based distros, but then being debian-based has its advantage for Ubuntu. Lot of packages are already available for debian and debain developers quite an experienced bunch of geeks.

7.) User community: The user community for Ubuntu is the strongest and it has been the case from the very beginning of the project. Somehow every Ubuntu user has spread the word of mouth and helped make Ubuntu popular. No other community of a Linux distro is as tightly-knit as Ubuntu and believe me I have seen a lot of community-driven projects over the years.

Future of Ubuntu & Open-Source Software (OSS)

For success, some luck and external factors do play an important role. Ubuntu's success is also somewhat dependent on these. Novell sponsors openSuSE while RedHat sponsors Fedora. Both have their tie-ups with proprietary software makers. Some OSS evangelist's do not approve of such relationships and thus love Ubuntu more than others.

Normally, the Ubuntu distro is released twice every year. In 2006, Ubuntu also started something called Long Term Support (LTS), which is released every 18 months. These versions are considered to be more suitable for large corporations that do not upgrade very often and require long-term support for an OS. The next LTS will be 8.04 released in April 2008.

Ubuntu is special example of OSS, because it's got popular quickly. Along with Firefox, it is probably the best success story of desktop OSS. For the future success of OSS, its important that projects like these become a success. There is quite a lot of work to be done, but Ubuntu's just started the engine... and there is a long road to success...


Stevan Ljuljdurovic said...

I would say user community is the most important. Good article. If you want to do some networking together leave a message on my website (

Saptarshi Purkayastha said...

yes...I would agree. Thats probably the most important reason!!