February 23, 2019

Debian: A Brief Retrospective - page 3

Debian a Decade Ago

  • August 15, 2003
  • By Ian Murdock

This is getting long enough already, so I won't go through the rest of Debian's history in detail. My point is simply this: that Debian would not have been possible without the collective efforts of thousands. I merely gave the first push.

In closing, I'd like to offer my perspective on what Debian can contribute during the next 10 years. The commercialization of Linux is at a crossroads, and it is much the same crossroads that UNIX reached in 1993. The delicate balance of the Linux ecosystem, which is what makes Linux valuable, is being threatened by a certain few who would like nothing more than to own it. To the extent that any company is successful at "productizing the ecosystem," the ecosystem will cease to be an ecosystem, and the very thing that is different about Linux, the very reason that we are all here, will be gone.

Some say that Linux will never suffer the fate of UNIX because of the GPL--and from a community perspective, they're right. No company will be able to "own" Linux, because Linux is not ownable.

My concern here is not the Linux community, which will do just fine either way, but rather Linux in the commercial sector. There are more ways to lock in commercial users than just intellectual property, and we're seeing this strategy play out today. The Linux opportunity is enormous, and the opportunity is in the ecosystem around Linux, where any number of companies, large and small, can benefit and coexist. It would be a shame if this ecosystem were to be destroyed.

At LinuxWorld last week, a number of people asked me what Debian could do to make itself a more viable alternative to the commercial distributions in the enterprise market. That shouldn't be Debian's focus. The focus shouldn't be on following the commercial distributions where they want to lead us, but rather on taking the lead--for example, by working with and strengthening existing vendor-neutral, community-owned standards efforts such as the Linux Standard Base (LSB).

What do I think Debian should do next? As the Linux world's leading non-commercial, community-driven distribution, Debian can lead the way in preserving the fragile Linux ecosystem, if it sets its mind to it.

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