Debian and popularity

In the course of a discussion on debian-project, statistics about how many computers run Debian came up. This is a metric that always bothers me a little, and this time I tried to say something about why. It feels like a comment that should have an independent existence outside of that thread, so I'll post it here as well.

One of the delightful things about Debian is that the project consists of a group of people who are working together to create something that, primarily, we all want to use. Making it usable for everyone else as well is, of course, a wonderful goal and something that many of us care a lot about. But I think it's important not to lose sight of the fact that world-wide adoption on the order of Windows is not a requirement for the Debian project to be a success.

Debian is successful every time I boot a system and it's running Debian, every time Debian solves my problems, every time I can fix something I ran into because it's Debian and I can help make it better. It's fun if I can get more people to use Debian, and it's important to have an influx of new blood and new ideas to keep Debian fresh and responsive, but that's about keeping Debian successful, not about making Debian successful.

If we have enough developers to maintain and improve Debian even at the rate that we're maintaining and improving Debian today, to me that's a success, and I don't really care whether the percentage of Debian users in the broader computing context ever moves off of 0.02%. One of the great things about free software is that we're not a business: we don't live or die by market share, we aren't going to get bought out by someone else if we don't become a big enough fish, and we don't have to grow 10% a year or implode. It would certainly be nice to attract more people and more users and improve even faster, and I certainly wouldn't want to stand in the way of that, but it's not part of my metric of success.

Posted: 2012-01-07 20:46 — Why no comments?

Last spun 2022-02-06 from thread modified 2013-01-04